Modern Sculpture at the Getty

The Getty Center unveiled the complete Fran and Ray Stark sculpture collection a few weeks ago in Los Angeles. The deal was inked in 2005, with several of the 28 works appearing around the Brentwood campus over the last year, serving as sneak peaks of the feature presentation to come. The late Ray Stark was the legendary movie producer behind such hits as Funny Girl.

The collection brings the Getty’s sculpture holdings firmly into the 20th century, with works by many of the well known: Maillol, Kelly, Noguchi, Lichtenstein, Moore, Giacometti and Calder. The new pieces give context to Martin Puryear’s That Profile, a modern work standing lone sentinel in the upper tram plaza for the last eight years. Now, by the time you reach the Puryear, you will have seen works by Frink and Moore in the lower Sculpture Garden, and will be on your way past the Maillol--beautifully placed on the grand staircase--as you start your visit. Other works appear on the Sculpture Terrace, and yet more have been incorporated into the Getty’s outdoor sculpture campaign, Irwin’s Central Garden. 

When the news broke that the Getty had accepted the collection, there was much chat among art critics about the unevenness of the group, and whisperings about the conditions that came with it (including a reputed no-sell order on any piece). Frankly, I’m thrilled to see such attention given to sculpture at a major institution. Sure, there are some holes (ably filled by the collections of nearby LACMA and Norton Simon), and some works by the lesser known, but we need these other works to round out the history of the times.

As good as Henry Moore was, he wasn’t the only guy playing with bronze in the last century, any more than Van Gogh was the only impressionist playing with paint. A steady diet of only the top sculptors would get as boring as a steady feast of only one genre of movies. Imagine your local multiplex showing only serious dramas--forever. It would be enough to make you long for an art house offering, or at least a good action flick.

Get the latest Travel & Culture stories in your inbox.