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Getty Research Institute
Founder(s) J. Paul Getty
Founded 1985
Headquarters Los Angeles, California, United States
Focus dedicated to furthering knowledge and advancing understanding of the visual arts.
Method Grants, Research
Owner Getty Trust

The Getty Research Institute (GRI), at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, California, is "dedicated to furthering knowledge and advancing understanding of the visual arts". It is a program of the J. Paul Getty Trust. GRI maintains a research library, organizes exhibitions and other events, sponsors a residential scholars program, publishes books, and produces electronic databases.


The GRI was originally called the "Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities", and was first discussed in 1983. Located in Santa Monica, its first director (beginning in 1985) was Kurt W. Forster. GRI's library had 30,000 volumes in 1983, but grew to 450,000 volumes by 1986.

In a statement upon his departure in 1992, Forster summarized his tenure as "Beginning with the rudiments of a small museum library... the center grew... to become one of the nation's preeminent research centers for arts and culture...". In 1994, Salvatore Settis, a professor of the history of classical art and archeology in Italy, became the director of the Center. By 1996, the Center's name had been changed to "Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities", and by 1999 it was known simply as "Getty Research Institute".

One GRI's special projects was "L.A. as Subject: The Transformative Culture of Los Angeles Communities" conducted between 1995 and 1999, whose purposes included "enhanc[ing] existing resources and develop new resources that support new research scholarship on LA and also encourag[ing] the preservation, conservation, and display of local material culture". GRI worked with other local organizations to publish Cultural Inheritance/L.A.: A Resource Directory of Less Visible Archives and Collections in the Los Angeles Region in 1999. In 2000, the "L.A. as Subject" project was transferred to the University of Southern California. That school continues to update and expand an online version of the resource directory.

The Getty Information Institute (formerly the Art History Information Program, established in 1983) was dissolved in 1999 as a "result of a change of leadership at the Getty Trust". GRI absorbed "many of its functions".

In 2000, Thomas E. Crow was hired as GRI director to replace Settis who had resigned in 1999. Crow announced in October 2006 that he would be leaving for New York University. Since November 2007 Thomas W. Gaehtgens has been GRI's director; he was previously (1985–1986) a visiting scholar with the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities.



Among other holdings, GRI's research library owns about 900,000 volumes of books, periodicals, and auction catalogs; special collections; and two million photographs of art and architecture. The library is at the Getty Center. It does not loan its items to be taken out of the library. However, any visitor can come to the library to use items there.

Exhibitions and other events

GRI holds three public art shows (exhibitions) per year in its gallery which "focus primarily on the special collections of the Research Library or on work produced by artists in residence". For example, in 2005–2006 GRI held an exhibition entitled "Julius Shulman, Modernity and the Metropolis". The exhibition traveled to the National Building Museum and to the Art Institute of Chicago.

In addition to exhibitions, GRI has lectures (open to the public), colloquia (most open to the public), workshops (by invitation only), and screenings of films and videos (open to the public).

Residential scholars program

The GRI hires people who work at other art museums and colleges to work for a year at GRI. After the year is over, the people go back to their old jobs. The goal is to help spread ideas between people who work for different art museums. The residential scholars program seeks to "integrate the often isolated territory of art history into the wider sphere of the humanities". The first class of scholars arrived in 1985–1986; they had their salaries paid for and their housing provided but were under "absolutely no obligation to produce". Among the notable scholars was German writer Christa Wolf in 1993–1994, who wrote the novel Medea: a modern retelling during her year at GRI.

Each year the scholars are invited to work on projects related to an annual theme. In 2008–2009, the theme for the Getty Center was "Networks and Boundaries" and for the Getty Villa "The Power and Function of Ancient Images". The lengths of stay vary: Getty scholars are in residence for three, six or nine months, visiting scholars for one to three months, and predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows for a nine month academic year. In 2011-12, the theme is "Artistic Practice".


GRI publishes "Series Imprints" books in the categories of "Issues and Debates", "Texts & Documents", "Introduction To" (on "cultural heritage information in electronic form"), and "ReSources" (on the library's special collections). In addition, GRI publishes exhibition catalogs and other materials in hardcopy form.

This is a list of some of the books published by GRI, by the Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, by the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, by the Getty Information Institute, or by the Art History Information Program:

  • Bakewell, Elizabeth, et al. Object, image, inquiry: the art historian at work: report on a collaborative study by the Getty Art History Information Program (AHIP) and the Institute for Research in Information and Scholarship (IRIS), Brown University. Santa Monica, CA: AHIP, 1988. ISBN: 0892361352
  • Gaehtgens, Thomas W., and Heinz Ickstadt. American icons: transatlantic perspectives on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American art. Santa Monica, CA: Getty Center for the History of Art and Humanities, 1992. ISBN: 0892362464
  • Necipoglu, Gülru, and Mohammad Al-Asad. The Topkapi scroll: geometry and ornament in Islamic architecture: Topkapi Palace Museum Library MS H. 1956. Santa Monica, CA: Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1995. ISBN: 0892363355
  • Roth, Michael S., Claire L. Lyons, and Charles Merewether. Irresistible decay: ruins reclaimed. Los Angeles, CA: Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1997. ISBN: 0892364688
  • Baca, Murtha. Introduction to metadata: pathways to digital information. Los Angeles, CA: Getty Information Institute, 1998. ISBN: 0892365331
  • Warburg, Aby. The renewal of pagan antiquity: contributions to the cultural history of the European Renaissance. Los Angeles, CA: Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1999. ISBN: 0892365374
  • Paul, Carole, and Alberta Campitelli. Making a prince's museum: drawings for the late-eighteenth-century redecoration of the Villa Borghese. Los Angeles, CA: Getty Research Institute, 2000. ISBN: 0892365390
  • Phillips, Glenn, and Thomas E. Crow. Seeing Rothko. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2005. ISBN: 0892367342
  • Reed, Marcia, and Paola Demattè. China on paper: European and Chinese works from the late sixteenth to the early nineteenth century. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2007. ISBN: 9780892368693

Electronic databases

GRI continues to produce some of the electronic databases from the former Getty Information Institute. They are:

  • Getty Vocabulary Program databases (Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT), Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN), and Union List of Artist Names (ULAN))
  • Bibliography of the History of Art

In 2006, GRI and the OCLC Online Computer Library Center announced that the Getty Vocabularies (Art & Architecture Thesaurus, Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names, and Union List of Artist Names) will be available as a Web service.

Until July 1, 2009, the Getty Information Institute and later GRI co-produced the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals with the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library. On that date, GRI transferred the database back to Columbia University, which continues to maintain it.

Senior staff

GRI's senior staff includes:

  • Thomas W. Gaehtgens, Director
  • Andrew Perchuk, Deputy Director
  • Gail Feigenbaum, Associate Director
  • David Farneth, Assistant Director
  • Kathleen Salomon, Assistant Director
  • Marcia Reed, Chief Curator

Employees and budget

During the period July 2006 – June 2007, GRI had approximately 200 full-time and part-time employees. Its budget was $63.7 million.

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