Filling vacancies in two of the Getty Museum’s most important jobs, museum director Timothy Potts has picked Jeffrey Spier, an American scholar with whom he’s had a long professional connection, as its new senior curator of antiquities — the top post at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades — and an Italian museum director, Davide Gasparotto, as senior curator of paintings based at the Getty Center in Brentwood.
Gasparotto has been director of the Galleria Estense museum in Modena, Italy, for the last two years, and spent 12 years as a curator and art historian at the National Gallery of Parma.
He’s also been a visiting scholar at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. He succeeds Scott Schaefer, who retired in January after 15 years as the Getty’s top paintings curator, then stepped into a new job as a Los Angeles-based executive for the Sotheby’s art auction house.
Spier fills an opening at the Villa that goes back to 2011, when former senior antiquities curator Karol Wight left to become director of the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y. Curator Claire Lyons stepped in in an acting capacity.
Like Potts, Spier trained as an archaeologist, earning degrees from Harvard and Oxford, before branching into a career in art scholarship. When Potts was director of the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, Spier curated its 1997 exhibition “San Marco and Venice.”
Potts moved on to head the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, and on his watch Spier curated the 2007 exhibition, “Picturing the Bible: The Earliest Christian Art.”
In a statement Thursday, Potts hailed both hires for their breadth of knowledge. He described Gasparotto as “a leading figure in the field of Renaissance through eighteenth-century Italian painting and sculpture” who also brings “an exceptionally broad knowledge of European art in other periods and media.”
Spier’s agenda, Potts said, will include a reinstallation of the Getty Villa’s galleries of Greek and Roman art “along historical lines.” The current set-up is mainly thematic, exploring topics such as rulers, daily life and ancient gods.
Spier is expected to begin next month, with Gasparotto arriving late in 2014.