Getty Museum Reopens North Pavilion Galleries

LOS ANGELES – The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today that four permanent collection galleries at the Getty Center will reopen tomorrow with an innovative reinstallation of sculpture and decorative arts.

“We have utilized recent advances in technology, design, and—most importantly—significant additions to the collection, to reconfigure portions of the sculpture and decorative arts installation at the Getty Center,” explains David Bomford, acting director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “With the reinstallation of the North Pavilion, a 17th-century display cabinet from Augsburg, a 12th-century Limoges enamel relief of Christ in Majesty, and much of the Museum’s collection of stained glass are now on permanent view, the latter two for the first time.”

Antonia Boström, senior curator of sculpture and decorative arts at the J. Paul Getty Museum adds, “For the last several years, our department has worked very closely with Merritt Price and Robert Checchi in the Getty’s design department to re-envisage our approach to the installation of the sculpture and decorative arts galleries.” Boström continues, “I am hoping that visitors will find that we have created elegant spaces, which integrate glass, travertine, and bronze, and works in tandem with the building’s modern Richard Meier design.”

One of the overarching goals of this project was to reinvigorate the display of objects by placing them in new contexts and juxtaposing them with works from other areas in the Museum’s collection to stimulate new dialogues. The most significant change is a shift from an installation organized by medium (with separate galleries dedicated to bronze, maiolica, and glass) to a chrono-thematic configuration that explores a variety of objects from the same era. This new presentation integrates other art forms by including selected paintings and manuscripts from the Museum’s collection alongside sculpture and decorative arts.

Boström explains, “The juxtaposition of a Renaissance painting alongside a bronze sculpture or a cabinet from the same period demonstrates the continuity of artistic traditions that runs throughout the Getty’s various collections and allows visitors to interact with them in new and different ways.”

The first gallery is dedicated to the Renaissance in Italy and France from 1450–1600, and includes bronze sculptures, painted mythologies, tin-glazed ceramics, and furniture, reflecting the rich visual vocabulary of classical art. Highlights from the Italian sculpture collection—including Alessandro Vittoria’s Mercury (1559–60, bronze), a Satyr (c. 1542, bronze) by Benvenuto Cellini, and Tiziano Aspetti’s Male Nude (c. 1600, bronze)—are on view in this gallery alongside Italian maiolica plates; a rare Burgundian cabinet dating from about 1580; and mythological paintings by Federico Zuccaro (Cupid and Pan, about 1600), Giulio Romano (The Birth of Bacchus, about 1530s), and Antoine Caron (Dionysius the Areopagite Converting the Pagan Philosophers, 1570s).

The second gallery explores the artistic trajectory of Northern Europe, which was less dependent on classical prototypes than its Italian counterparts. A burgeoning bourgeois and mercantile class rose to power in the 1550s with refined taste for the highest artistic achievements, which they displayed in magnificently crafted cabinets within rooms called Kunst-und Wunderkammern (Cabinets of Curiosities). The centerpiece of this gallery is a display cabinet from Augsburg (around 1630), or Kabinettschrank, which served as a repository for rare and exotic objects such as medals, gems, or shells. Displayed on a Renaissance marble table, each of the cabinet’s four sides are open to reveal its unexpectedly complex series of drawers, doors, and cupboards. A folding medal display case contains a collection of gems, rings, coins and medals from the Museum’s Sculpture and Decorative Arts and Antiquities collections, while a mirrored door on the opposite side reflects the viewer. The cabinet is brought to life on interactive touch screens nearby, which offer visitors a virtual method of exploring the cabinet’s interior—enhancing their understanding of the object. This is the first time in-gallery media is featured in the permanent collection galleries at the Getty Center.

The Augsburg cabinet can also be experienced online, in a special augmented reality experience. Visitors to the Getty’s website ( can explore a digital hologram of the Augsburg display cabinet.

In the Medieval and Renaissance periods, the vast majority of art objects were created for religious instruction and devotion. In the next gallery, in an installation suggestive of a late medieval church treasury, paintings and small-scale sacred objects depicting canonical Christian subject matter—particularly Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the saints—are surrounded by 22 pieces of extraordinary stained glass. On permanent view for the first time since it was acquired in 2003, the collection of stained glass is shown without modern glass in front of it—so as not to conceal the depth and surface texture of the stained glass itself. In addition, the unusually large gilt copper and enamel relief of Christ in Majesty, made in a Limoges workshop in around 1188, and acquired by the Getty in 2007, is one of the highlights of this reconfigured gallery.

With the growth of an affluent and urban European middle class in the late Middle Ages and increased trade, elegant glass and ceramic tableware and vessels became popular art forms in Renaissance Italy and throughout Europe. The Getty’s collection of European glass and ceramics dating from the 15th to the 18th century has also been reinstalled in a newly interpreted installation.

The West Pavilion will soon undergo a similar renovation. Objects from the Sculpture and Decorative Arts collection which are usually on view in the West Pavilion have been temporarily deinstalled for the special presentation of Leonardo and the Art of Sculpture: Inspiration and Invention (through June 20, 2010). When the West Pavilion galleries reopen in fall 2010, they will take the viewer from Neoclassicism through Romanticism, culminating with Symbolism in the grand vertical gallery, in which the recently acquired nine-foot bronze vase by the French sculptor Jean-Désiré Ringel d’Illzach (1847–1916) will be installed as the centerpiece. The abundant natural light in this gallery will make the vase’s tremendous Symbolist details—life casts of spiders, juniper branches, scraps of lace, and still-undecipherable motifs—and Art Nouveau ornament even more vivid for Museum visitors. The monumental vase will be displayed together with French, Belgian, and German sculpture dating from the same period as well as Ferdnand Khnopff’s painted Portrait of Jeanne Kéfer (1885).

The Getty Center is open Tuesday through Friday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is closed Monday and major holidays. Admission to the Getty Center is always free. Parking is $15 per car, but free after 5pm on Saturdays and for evening events throughout the week. No reservation is required for parking or general admission. Reservations are required for event seating and groups of 15 or more. Please call 310-440-7300 (English or Spanish) for reservations and information. The TTY line for callers who are deaf or hearing impaired is 310-440-7305. The Getty Center is at 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California.

Image: North Pavilion Sculpture and Decorative Arts Galleries. Photo: Rebecca Vera-Martinez. © 2010 J. Paul Getty Trust

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