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History in the Making

SPECIAL ISSUE: THE NEW GETTY

December 07, 1997

1953: J. Paul Getty founds the J. Paul Getty Museum at the site of his Spanish-style home on his 65-acre ranch in Malibu as a California charitable trust, thereby earning large tax breaks from the IRS. The museum opens, with an annual budget of $25,000, in May 1954, absent Getty, who sends his regrets from the oil fields of Kuwait.

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1968: Getty decides to build a larger museum on the same site in a design identical to the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum. Ground is broken in December 1970, and the $18-million museum opens in 1974 with a $40-million endowment.

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January 15, 1974: J. Paul Getty Museum opens to mixed reviews.

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January 1974: Traffic jams and parking problems created by the heavy turnout of visitors to the new museum prompt local residents to file suit against the museum.

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June 6, 1976: J. Paul Getty, 83, dies at Sutton Place, his 450-year-old mansion in Surrey, England, having never seen the completed museum. His estate is valued at between $2 billion and $4 billion.

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June 8, 1976: Getty's will is filed for probate. Though he had told his museum staff not to expect any legacy, 4 million shares of Getty Oil Co. stock, worth about $700 million, are left to the museum. The will and actions by the subsequent Getty Trust are later challenged in several suits by various Getty heirs.

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Summer 1977: Museum acquires a rare 4th century BC Greek bronze sculpture by Lysippus for $3.9 million. Its sale is shrouded in mystery amid charges of illegal exportation.

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1979: Museum acquires 17 kylikes (cups), dating back about 2,500 years. They are the work of Euphronios, a 6th century BC artist regarded as one of the finest ancient Greek pottery painters. The Getty refuses to release any detailed information about their origins except to say they are from an anonymous Texas collection.

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March 1981: Getty Trust appoints Harold M. Williams, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission under President Jimmy Carter, as chief executive officer and president to supervise the investment of the Getty funds and develop a master plan for their dispersal.

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March 1982: J. Paul Getty estate is settled and the Getty Trust receives proceeds of the estate that have already appreciated to $1.2 billion. It has only one parameter: Federal tax law requires that, in order to maintain its charity status, it must spend 4.25% of the average value of the trust's endowment three out of every four years.

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March 1983: John Walsh is hired as Getty Museum director from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where he was curator of paintings. The move adds prestige to the museum's reputation.

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May 18, 1983: Getty and the Norton Simon Museum jointly purchase Edgar Degas' "L'Attente" for $3.7 million. It is exhibited on an alternating basis at both museums.

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Sept. 20, 1983: Getty Trust announces that a new museum and fine arts center will be built in Brentwood. By 1984 the trust has acquired 742 hilltop acres in West Los Angeles, of which the center's site is 110 acres. Richard Meier is named architect.

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1983: The trust establishes the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities (now the Getty Research Institute), the Getty Center for Education in the Arts (now the Getty Education Institute), the Getty Conservation Institute and the Getty Art History Information Program (now the Getty Information Institute).

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February 1985: Los Angeles City Planning Commission votes unanimously to approve plans for the new Getty Center. The action occurs after weeks of negotiations between Brentwood homeowners and the Getty Trust regarding the height of the museum, its operating hours and the traffic and crowding it might create.

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April 1985: Museum acquires Andrea Mantegna's "Adoration of the Magi" for a record $10.5 million.

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August 1986: Museum reveals the acquisition of a kouros, a Greek marble sculpture of a standing nude male youth. It is a rare type from the 7th through the 5th centuries BC, the formative epoch known as the Archaic.

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October 1987: Museum acquires James Ensor's "Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889," one of the key icons of modern painting, for an undisclosed amount.

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April 1988: Getty Grant Program embarks on a major plan to aid the conservation of architectural landmarks worldwide.

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July 1988: The museum unveils a larger-than-life Greek cult statue, believed to represent Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Purchased for an estimated $18 million, it dates from 425 to 400 BC and is said to rank in importance with the museum's finest works from antiquity, the kouros and the Getty Bronze. Rumors arise that the statue was illegally excavated in Italy, but despite an absence of records, the museum stands by the work's authenticity.

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August 1989: Construction on the new Getty Center begins. According to a Getty-commissioned study, the building project will have a $1.4-billion impact on Los Angeles County's economy and will create 12,900 jobs.

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