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Getty Center site planning and construction photographs, 1947, 1958, 1963, 1978, 1982, 1984-1997, undated (bulk 1984-1997)

To access physical materials at the Getty, go to the library catalog record for this collection and click "Request an Item." Click here for general library access policy. See the Administrative Information section of this finding aid for access restrictions specific to the records described below. Please note, some of the records may be stored off site; advanced notice is required for access to these materials.
Guide to the Getty Center Site Planning and Construction Photographs, 1947-1997, undated

Administrative History

The Getty Center opened in 1997 as a multifaceted campus located in Brentwood, California, including modern architecture, gardens, and fountains. The Getty Center is owned and operated by the J. Paul Getty Trust, a cultural and philanthropic organization. The Trust is a not-for-profit institution, educational in purpose and character, that focuses on the visual arts in all of their dimensions. The Center is home to the Trust and its four programs: the Getty Foundation, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. The Museum and the Conservation Institute also maintain operations at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, the original site of the Museum.

The decision to build the Getty Center was a defining moment in the history of the J. Paul Getty Trust. The reasons for that decision were both practical and philosophical. Originally established in 1953, the Trust was the result of J. Paul Getty's desire to open a "small, private museum" in the house he had purchased, which was nestled in the hills near Malibu, California overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The museum opened in 1954 and in 1968 Mr. Getty decided to build a Roman style villa to house his growing collection of art work. The new J. Paul Getty Museum, otherwise known as the Getty Villa, opened six years later.

When most of Mr. Getty's personal estate passed to the Trust in 1982, the Trustees decided that, given the size of the endowment, it should make a greater contribution to the visual arts and humanities than the museum could alone. A proposal was formulated that, in addition to an expanded museum, called for a group of independent but related programs devoted to scholarship, conservation, and education. The original programs, some of which have since dissolved or evolved into other entities, were the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities (now the Getty Research Institute), the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Center for Education in the Arts, the Getty Art History Information Program, and the Getty Grant Program (now the Getty Foundation). Due to a lack of space at the original J. Paul Getty Museum site the Trust and its program offices were originally scattered throughout the Los Angeles basin.

It soon became clear that these new programs, along with the expansion of the Museum's collections, required a larger and more unified main campus facility to accommodate what the Trust envisioned for its extended mission. Expanding the Villa site for this purpose was impossible. A roughly 750-acre property in Brentwood (in west Los Angeles) was purchased by the Trust in 1983 and the following year Richard Meier & Partners was chosen to design the Getty Center, which would house the Trust, its newly created programs, and an additional space for the Museum. In 1984 Steve Rountree was appointed Director of the Trust's Getty Center Building Program, which included responsibility for all aspects of the project development, design, and construction of the Getty Center campus in Brentwood. After three years of design, discussions, and approvals, construction began in 1987 under the guidance of the Dinwiddie Construction Company (which had also built the Getty Villa in the early 1970s). A decade later, and forty-three years after the original J. Paul Getty Museum had opened in Mr. Getty's Ranch House, the Getty Center officially opened to the public on December 17, 1997.

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