J. Paul Getty Museum director resigning in LA

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The director who presided over the J. Paul Getty Museum during some of its most tumultuous and exciting times said Thursday he is resigning at the end of the month.

Michael Brand, an acclaimed expert in Indian art, has directed the museum since December 2005.

He said he was leaving a year before his five-year contract was up to pursue other interests but would stay on as a consultant until the end of the summer.

Brand took over the Getty when it was immersed in an embarrassing international scandal, with the governments of Italy and Greece accusing it of acquiring scores of valuable art objects stolen from their countries.

The J. Paul Getty Trust also was just weeks away from reopening Getty Villa, an architectural wonder in the hills overlooking Malibu that underwent a $275 million renovation.

With the reopening, Brand became the first Getty director to head two museum campuses.

“I am very proud of what I have been able to achieve in my four years as director of the Getty Museum, especially the successful conclusion of negotiations with Italy and Greece,” he said in a statement issued by the J. Paul Getty Trust, which operates the museum.

Brand previously directed the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. He arrived at the Getty well aware of the controversy and quickly set about to have the museum return dozens of contested, valuable objects.

The Getty has since entered a long-term partnership with Italy’s National Archaeological Museum of Florence to display Italian art at its campuses.

A result of that effort is “The Chimaera of Arezzo” exhibition of ancient Etruscan bronzework from the Italian museum that is on display at Getty Villa through Feb. 8.

“Dr. Brand not only led efforts to settle issues impacting the museum’s antiquities collection, he worked to frame a new acquisitions policy for the Getty that squarely addresses provenance issues, and he has been a leader within the profession in this regard,” said James N. Wood, president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Wood said David Bomford, the museum’s associate director for collections, will serve as interim director until a permanent replacement is found.

Neither Brand nor Wood responded to interview requests.

Brand told the Los Angeles Times the resignation was his decision but declined to elaborate. He said he would continue to draw his director’s salary until his contract expires in December. The Getty also provides a rent-free home for him and his family.

Like other museums, the Getty has been hit by the souring economy. The Getty Trust announced last year it was cutting more than 200 jobs because of a shrinking endowment.

It managed to avoid cutting museum hours or raising admission prices, although it increased parking fees at the Malibu campus.

Before becoming director of the Virginia museum, Brand was assistant director of the Queensland Art Gallery in his native Australia.

Other major exhibitions Brand brought to the Getty include “Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai,” ”Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture” and “Drawings by Rembrandt and his Pupils: Telling the Difference.”