James Cuno, President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, will step down as head of the world’s richest arts institution after more than a decade at the helm.
“It has been my honor to serve this great organization and play a small role in expanding its mission to broaden and deepen our understanding of the human experience through the visual arts,” Cuno said in a communicated.
“It has been incredibly gratifying to see the impact of our collective work in the areas of conservation, research, museum presentation and philanthropy, and I am so grateful to the many dedicated staff and volunteers who make all of this possible. ”
Cuno said his age (he turned 70 this spring) and “the natural transition to a post-COVID world” informed his decision.
The organization’s board chairman, David Lee, said a special committee has been tasked with finding a successor. Cuno will remain in his post until a replacement is appointed.
A prolific scholar with an impressive resume, Cuno joined the Getty Trust in 2011 after leading the Art Institute of Chicago (2004-11); the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London (2003-04); Harvard University Art Museums (1991-2003); the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College (1989-1991); and the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, UCLA (1986-89).
In his current role, he oversees the administration of the Getty Trust as well as the Getty Museum, the Conservation Institute, the Research Institute and the Foundation, a list of programs that employ 1,400 people.
In its press release, the Trust hailed the growth of the Getty’s programs under Cuno’s leadership, citing the organization’s increased engagement in the Los Angeles area, including its spearheading the $ 37 million LA Arts Recovery Fund; the evolution of the Pacific Standard Time initiative which is taking place in all artistic venues in the region (the third edition of the event is set at 2024); and the creation in 2019 of an African-American art history initiative to document the contributions of African-American artists.
“Jim has brought great stability and great energy to Getty, which has grown stronger through digitization and increased engagement with Los Angeles and the world,” Lee said in a statement, adding that the outgoing president “understands deeply into the power of art to unify the world, to educate us about humanity and to connect us through our common heritage.
Yet the tenure of the CEO is not without flaws.
In July 2020, a open letter signed by 239 current Getty staff and more than 220 former employees and visitors called the institution for its internal history of racial bias and milquetoast response to the murder of George Floyd.
“Racism abounds,” the letter read, “from the callous comments of management and frequent micro-attacks suffered by staff and visitors of color to collection practices and exhibition programs that glorify the work of cisgender heterosexual white male performers to the exclusion of others “.
Cuno was also criticized for his statements against the repatriation of ancient artifacts to their countries of origin, as long as the objects were removed in a legal manner at the time.
“Cultural property must be recognized for what it is: the heritage of humanity and not of the modern nation-state, subject to the political agenda of its current ruling elite” he wrote in 2014.
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