Getty Trust names James Cuno president and chief executive -- now, why not Getty Museum director?


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With the announcement Monday that the J. Paul Getty Trust has named James Cuno, currently director of the Art Institute of Chicago, as trust president and chief executive, the Getty is halfway home. Now all it needs to do is appoint a director for its flagship Getty Museum, a job that has been vacant for more than a year.

My pick: James Cuno.

As I’ve written before, splitting the top two Getty jobs is not just senseless, but it’s also counterproductive. The director has full responsibility for the museum’s operation, but the trust president has final authority over the museum, including its budgets and acquisitions. Full responsibility without full authority is a recipe for friction, at the very least, which has played out repeatedly at the Getty for nearly 30 years. Why keep hindering the huge potential of the place?


Cuno’s appointment is not surprising; his name has been on most lists of likely candidates. (His predecessor as Getty Trust president, James Wood, who died suddenly last June, also came to the post from the directorship of the AIC.) And Cuno’s experience as a museum director is lengthy and impressive, mostly with academic-affiliated institutions: Prior to Chicago, he was director of London’s Courtauld Institute, the Harvard Art Museums, Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art and UCLA’s Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts.

After Wood’s untimely death last summer, the Getty board put its ongoing museum-director search on hold, pending fulfillment of the trust president’s appointment. Now that the job has been filled -- Cuno starts work Aug. 1 -- the director search begins anew.

Perhaps that announcement can be made quickly -- say, on Aug. 2.


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-- Christopher Knight