October 19, 2017

Getty Center Celebrates 20th Anniversary with Robert Polidori Photographs Exhibition

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Exhibition features intimate photographs of the Getty Center on the eve of its 1997 opening
Robert Polidori: 20 Photographs of the Getty Museum, 1997

December 12, 2017–May 6, 2018
at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center


European Painting 1850–1900 Gallery, J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997, Robert Polidori. Chromogenic print. Courtesy of the artist in conjunction with The Lapis Press. © Robert Polidori


LOS ANGELES – In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Getty Center, the J. Paul Getty Museum announced today an exhibition of 20 works by renowned photographer Robert Polidori (Canadian-French-American, born 1951). Robert Polidori: 20 Photographs of the Getty Museum, 1997 is the first public exhibition of photographs showing the first installation of the Getty Center in the month leading up to its opening in December 1997.

          “As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Getty Center this December, this exhibition provides an opportunity to reflect upon the creation of this remarkable complex of buildings and the evolution of the Getty Center’s programs. Polidori’s artfully composed images are not only an important historical record, but also a revealing insight into the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the preparation and installation of our exhibitions and displays,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

          Highly regarded for his depictions of human habitats and cultural museology, Polidori produced these intimate and unstaged views of the Getty Center in fall 1997 while on assignment for The New Yorker. Initially limited to surveying the exterior grounds because of restricted access, he lobbied successfully for permission to photograph the Center’s indoor spaces as well. Polidori ultimately produced about 60 exposures of the gardens, entrance hall, galleries, and various spaces across the site. Working in what he called an “old analogical way” with a large-format camera and Kodak Vericolor film, Polidori created this group of photographs at a moment when digital photography was gaining momentum, embraced by amateur and professional photographers alike.

          This exhibition features a selection of photographs Polidori made of interior spaces within the Getty Museum, work he generated while in the midst of a multi-year project to document period rooms undergoing restoration at the Palace of Versailles. Many of the images reveal the process of installing objects from J. Paul Getty’s painting, sculpture, and decorative arts collections in the new galleries, some of which remain on display today. A book titled Synchrony and Diachrony, published by Steidl and featuring texts by Polidori, David Dorenbaum (psychoanalyst and assistant professor at the University of Toronto), and Amanda Maddox (associate curator, Department of Photographs, J. Paul Getty Museum), will be released on the occasion of the exhibition.

          "The labors made semi-evident in these photographs—showing brief glimpses of seemingly chaotic states, slowly evolving towards a structured order, resembling tableaus and portraying scenes seen as occurring behind a curtain—were attempts on my part to bring some phenomenological trace, as well as psychological depth, to a subject matter that essentially is usually invisible: the portraiture of the curatorial act,” says Robert Polidori.

          Throughout the next few months, the Getty Center will host a number of events highlighting the anniversary, including podcasts and lectures, culminating in a Family Festival in May.

          Robert Polidori: 20 Photographs of the Getty Museum, 1997 is on view December 12, 2017–May 6, 2018 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition is curated by Amanda Maddox, associate curator in the Getty Museum’s Department of Photographs.



The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.


The J. Paul Getty Museum collects Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture and decorative arts to 1900, as well as photographs from around the world to the present day. The Museum’s mission is to display and interpret its collections, and present important loan exhibitions and publications for the enjoyment and education of visitors locally and internationally. This is supported by an active program of research, conservation, and public programs that seek to deepen our knowledge of and connection to works of art.


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