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Entertainment & Arts

Deborah Marrow, longtime Getty Foundation director and arts funder, dies

Getty Foundation Director Deborah Marrow in 2012.
Getty Foundation Director Deborah Marrow in 2012. She oversaw arts grants and spearheaded an internship program to increase diversity in museum staffing throughout the region.
(J. Paul Getty Trust)

As director of the Getty Foundation, Deborah Marrow oversaw about $28 million in grants that made possible the influential and popular Pacific Standard Time exhibitions throughout the L.A. region, and during her tenure the foundation gave nearly 8,000 grants in 180-plus countries — more than $415 million in funding.

But it was a local internship program — the Getty’s Multicultural Undergraduate Internship, aimed at increasing staff diversity and changing the face of arts leadership in Los Angeles County — that made Marrow most proud.

Marrow, 70, died Tuesday at her home in Santa Monica, her family said, and friends and former colleagues recalled an art historian and administrator who was intelligent, honest, passionate and compassionate.

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Marrow retired last year after more than three decades at the Getty. She became director of the Getty Grant Program in 1989, overseeing wide-ranging, global grant-making efforts. In 2004 she became director of the grant program’s successor, the Getty Foundation.

“No one is trained to be a grant maker,” Marrow, a specialist in Baroque painting, told The Times in 1990. “Everyone falls into the field from somewhere else. I fell into it from art history.”

Marrow’s husband, Michael J. McGuire, said she was particularly proud of the internship program. Since 1993 it has funded more than 3,000 students working for museums and other local cultural organizations. Last year the Getty renamed the program the Getty Marrow Undergraduate Internship.

Marrow spearheaded dozens of grant programs and arts initiatives, chief among them the ambitious, sprawling Pacific Standard Time. The first series of exhibitions, “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980,” debuted in 2011 and was a collaboration among more than 60 cultural institutions; “PST: LA/LA,” in 2017-18 included exhibitions and research focused on Latin American and Latino art in Southern California.

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“PST was the first time the Getty did something so forward-facing and public,” said Joan Weinstein, who assumed Marrow’s post as Getty Foundation director in July. “Most of our work was behind the scenes. It was an important step for the foundation. Deborah always said, ‘We helped facilitate what was already there — the most collegial group of museums anywhere, who embraced the idea of working together.’”

Weinstein said she considered Marrow a close friend and mentor, not only to her but to scores of other women in the arts.

“When she first came to L.A., she taught locally and worked for Chrysalis magazine, which was a feminist publication,” Weinstein said. “She brought to her work at the Getty a strong commitment to gender equality.”

Marrow was born in New York City and raised with her younger sister, Jane, in Scarsdale, N.Y. Her father, Seymour A. Marrow, owned a clothing manufacturing company, and her mother, Adele Marrow, raised the family.

Marrow went on to earn a bachelor’s degree cum laude as well as a PhD in art history from the University of Pennsylvania, where she met her husband at a school mixer in 1966. She also received a master’s in art history from Johns Hopkins University. Her academic focus on 17th century French and Italian art culminated in her 1982 book, “The Art Patronage of Maria de’ Medici.”

During graduate school, Marrow worked briefly in the paintings department at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She also taught art history at colleges on the East Coast and around Southern California.

“Her life was her family and her work and, of course, the University of Pennsylvania — she was a trustee there,” McGuire said. “She was extraordinary.”

Marrow came to the Getty in 1993 as publications coordinator. Her other roles included serving as acting director of the Getty Research Institute from 1999-2000, as dean for external relations in 2000 and twice as interim president of the J. Paul Getty Trust from 2006-2007 and 2010-2011.

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Marrow’s career was not without its difficulties. In her 2006 stint as interim president, she replaced Barry Munitz, who resigned due to turmoil that included allegations that the Getty acquired looted antiquities. The organization also faced scrutiny by the California attorney general’s office over its financial practices.

“She has a very broad grasp of all the fields that the Getty’s involved with,” Getty executive Stephen D. Rountree said at the time, “and is a great choice to help heal some of what’s been going on.”

No individual has contributed more to the Getty’s mission than Marrow, J. Paul Getty Trust President James Cuno said in a statement. “She brought clarity, vision, and selfless dedication to her work, and made loyal professional friends around the world.”

Running the Getty Grant Program — giving out money — was “a great job,” Marrow told The Times, though she admitted it was frustrating not to be able to fund all who applied.

Still, the job was worth it.

“Having an international overview of what’s going on in all these fields,” she said, “and seeing the shape of art history is a real privilege.”

Marrow is survived by McGuire, daughter Anna Marrow McGuire and son David Marrow McGuire.


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