Thomas W. Gaehtgens, an internationally recognized scholar who is director of the German Center for the History of Art in Paris, will be the new leader of the Getty Research Institute, sources close to the Getty say. His appointment, expected to be announced today, will end a 10-month search for a successor to Thomas Crow, who left the prestigious position to chair the department of modern art history at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts.
Gaehtgens, 67, a native of Germany who has art history degrees from the universities of Bonn, Freiburg, Vienna and Paris, is expected to arrive in Los Angeles in November. He will take charge of the Getty’s program for interdisciplinary scholarship in the arts and humanities, founded in 1984 as a branch of the J. Paul Getty Trust.
The research institute maintains one of the world’s largest libraries and special collections of materials related to art history, publishes scholarly resource books, operates a visiting scholars program and presents public exhibitions, lectures, seminars and conferences. Sources familiar with the Getty search say that Gaehtgens was selected as a respected scholar with a strong record of leadership and a solid understanding of complex organizations.
A sort of Renaissance man of art history, Gaehtgens has specialized in 18th and 19th century German and French art and delved deeply into many other subjects, including the history of museums and U.S. modern art.
He also has extensive experience at several institutions of higher education. He founded the German Center for the History of Art in Paris in 1997, after spending several years as head of the Art History Institute at the Free University of Berlin. He was a visiting scholar at the Art Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University from 1979 to 1980 and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London in 2004.
No stranger to the Getty Research Institute, Gaehtgens was a visiting scholar there in 1985-86, when he took a break from the Free University of Berlin to work on a catalogue raisonné of 18th century French painter Joseph-Marie Vien and to advance his study of the work of 20th century American painter Marsden Hartley.
“My inspiration comes from contact with different fields,” he told The Times then. “This year was really just paradise.”