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James Cuno will retire as mastermind of the Getty Trust’s art endeavours

President and chief executive has led the institution for a decade, bolstering its reputation

James Cuno, president and chief executive of the J. Paul Getty Trust © 2011 J. Paul Getty Trust

The J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles announced today that James Cuno is stepping down as its president and chief executive after leading the institution for a decade. Given that the Getty is the world’s wealthiest art institution, Cuno’s retirement is certain to spawn wide speculation about what successor the trust will choose and what direction the Getty will pursue next.

The Getty’s board chairman, David Lee, said that the board would appoint an international search committee to locate a replacement.

Cuno is a prolific writer, art historian and curator who took over as president and chief executive in 2011 after serving as president of the Art Institute of Chicago, director of the Courtauld Institute of Art in London and director of the Harvard Art Museums in Massachusetts, among other positions.

“It has been my honour to serve this tremendous organisation, and to play a small part in expanding its mission to broaden and deepen our understanding of the human experience through the visual arts,” Cuno says of the Getty in a statement.

Adding to the fulminations about who might succeed him is an awareness of how he managed to first steady and later bolster the institution’s reputation. His predecessors, among them Barry Munitz, who governed from 1997 to 2006 and was criticised for his management style and voluminous account expenses, were sometimes faulted for deficiencies in oversight.

As president and chief executive, Cuno oversaw the administration of the Getty Trust as well as four major programmes, including the Getty Museum, the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Research Institute and the Getty Foundation, which together have 1,400 employees, the institution says.

Among other achievements by Cuno, the Getty cites outreach in the Los Angeles area, including funding for small and mid-size community arts organisations; participation in the Pacific Standard Time series of arts collaborations in the region; and grants to area arts organisations.

The institution also points to his involvement in diversifying the Getty’s collections; the Getty Research Institute’s African American Art History Initiative, documenting the cultural legacy of works by African American artists; and an effort with other philanthropic institutions to acquire the Johnson Publishing Company Photograph Archives, containing millions of photographic prints and negatives documenting the African American experience over 70 years.

Cuno drew international attention to threats to ancient art and cultural heritage across the globe as well, the Getty notes, while highlighting exhibitions focused on classical antiquity.