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ARTFUL WORDS: CALLIGRAPHY IN ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPTS
December 18, 2018–April 7, 2019

The written word was a major art form in the premodern world. Calligraphers filled the pages of manuscripts with scrolling vines and delicate pen flourishes, and illuminators depicted captivating narratives with large letterforms. These decorative embellishments reveal the monetary, cultural, and spiritual value placed on handmade books at the time. Offering an exploration of decorated letters, Artful Words: Calligraphy in Illuminated Manuscripts, provides insight to the artistic trends that shaped calligraphic practice from England to Central Europe and beyond for nearly one thousand years.

Three types of decorated letters were employed in the handwritten book arts of the Middle Ages: ornamented letters, formed by abstract foliate motifs; inhabited letters, in which strokes of the letter are made up of animal, human, or hybrid forms; and historiated initials, in which the letter includes figures or other content related to the text.

The alphabetic adornments in this exhibition appear in manuscripts that range from a Bible and a Qur’an to books of prayer, law, and history. The calligraphers who made them combined script and ornament to embellish pages, while illuminators developed original and complex strategies for fitting miniature stories into individual letters. Several of the manuscripts feature signatures by the scribes, calligraphers, or artists.

“We consume words in a variety of ways—in handwritten, printed, and digital media—decoding messages that are communicated not just by the combination of phrases but also by their design and styling,” said Bryan C. Keene, associate curator of manuscripts. “Among the highlights in the exhibition is a grouping of manuscripts penned by the famous scribe David Aubert for Duchess Margaret of York, as well as a Qur’an paired with an Italian ceramic vase with imitation Arabic script.”

Artful Words: Calligraphy in Illuminated Manuscripts will be on view December 18, 2018, through April 7, 2019 at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition is curated by Keene and Katherine Sedovic, former graduate intern in the Manuscripts Department. Related programming will include gallery talks, lectures, and more. Additional information can be found at getty.edu/360.

SPECTACULAR MYSTERIES: RENAISSANCE DRAWINGS REVEALED
December 11, 2018 – April 28, 2019

During the Italian Renaissance—the period from about 1475 to 1600 that is often seen as the foundation of later European art—drawing became increasingly vital to the artistic process just as it grew dramatically more sophisticated in technique and conception. Today, Italian Renaissance drawings are considered some of the most spectacular products of the western tradition. Yet, they often remain shrouded in mystery, their purpose, subjects, and even their makers unknown.

Featuring drawings from the Getty Museum’s collection and rarely seen works from private collections, Spectacular Mysteries: Renaissance Drawings Revealed, on view December 11, 2018—April 28, 2019, at the J. Paul Getty Museum, highlights the detective work involved in investigating the mysteries behind master drawings.

“The Getty’s collection of Italian drawings counts among the greatest in this country, and this exhibition will surprise many visitors with how much we still have to learn about these rare works of art,” explains Getty Museum Director Timothy Potts. “This display, which includes some of our best Italian drawings, provides many insights into the methods curators use to investigate the purpose and meaning of these superlative works of art, and some of the revelations they have disclosed.”

The practice of drawing flourished in Italy during the Renaissance, due to a surge in patronage for paintings, sculpture, and architecture, which went hand in hand with the rise of artists’ studios and a rigorous production process for these works. Many of the drawings produced at the time tell stories of their creation and the purposes they served, yet sometimes even the most seemingly simple question—who drew it?—is a mystery. Given the ease and informality with which a sketch can be made, its purpose and other information about it must be discovered from the only surviving evidence: the drawing itself.

Clues about the artist can be uncovered by comparing a drawing with the stylistic characteristics of other sheets. In 1995, for example, a Sotheby’s expert looked at Study of a Mourning Woman (about 1500-05), and immediately recognized the distinctive penwork and handling of the drapery of Michelangelo. Subsequent study confirmed this attribution. The Getty acquired the drawing in 2017.

Inscriptions can sometimes also be a useful clue to the artist, but should be treated with caution since they often reflect the over-optimistic attribution of a past owner. One work in the exhibition – Exodus (about 1540) – features many inscriptions. It took some time and much research to decipher which inscriptions belonged to past owners and which was that of the artist. Eventually, the drawing was attributed to Maturino da Firenze.

Mysteries about the sitter, subject, and purpose can sometimes be revealed by linking a drawing to a painting, sculpture, or print. The purpose of Two Male Standing Figures (about 1556) was unknown until 2001 when the work was auctioned and identified as the work of Girolamo Muziano. At that time, it was determined to be a study for figures in an altarpiece the artist painted for the cathedral in Orvieto.

“As I try to learn more and more about these captivating works, I sometimes feel like a detective,” says Julian Brooks, senior curator of drawings and curator of the exhibition. “In the end, this exhibition is the story of what we know, what we don’t know, what we might know, and what we can’t know about these extraordinary works of art and their world.”

Spectacular Mysteries: Renaissance Drawings Revealed will be on view December 11, 2017 –April 28. 2019, at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center. The exhibition is curated by Julian Brooks, senior curator in the Department of Drawings.

MONUMENTality
December 4, 2018 through April 21, 2019

The exhibition explores the role of monuments and monumental art, featuring works from antiquity to present day

As the role and meaning of monuments in contemporary culture takes on new urgency, the Getty Research Institute (GRI) is presenting an exhibition that connects these contemporary concerns to the past. MONUMENTality, on view at the Getty Center from December 4, 2018 through April 21, 2019, invites viewers to consider how the meanings of monuments can change over time and why some monuments endure while others fall.

“In organizing both this extraordinary exhibition and the current scholar year theme, the Getty Research Institute has focused on an especially timely subject – monuments and monumentality. Here, art history has very contemporary implications as many people, especially in the U.S., are passionately debating and re-examining the roles that monuments play in our communities and cities,” said Andrew Perchuk, acting director of the Getty Research Institute. “The GRI’s special collections are a rich source of archival material that makes it possible to take a broad view of both the varied life of monuments and the concept of the monumental from the classical to the contemporary.”

The exhibition investigates various paradigms of monumentality generated through systems of belief and structures of power, presenting historical rare books, political ephemera, photographs and contemporary art about or inspired by monuments from antiquity to present day.

Artists in the exhibition include Dennis Adams, Annalisa Alloatti, Lane Barden, Mirella Bentivoglio, Joyce Cutler-Shaw, Tacita Dean, Theaster Gates, Leandro Katz, Michael Light, Benedetta Cappa Marinetti, Edward Ranney, Ed Ruscha, Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, Lebbeus Woods, and more.

Objects in the exhibition date back to the 16th century, depicting early modern as well as classical monuments. For example, the renowned 18th-century printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranesi created grandiose reconstructions of Ancient Rome and a detailed scrolling engraving of Trajan’s column, erected in 113 CE. Rare 19th-century photographs document rebelling citizens during the 1871 Paris commune surrounding the toppled statue of Napoleon Bonaparte in the Place Vendôme, illustrating how the erection and destruction of monuments has been a recurring theme from antiquity to the present.

Among the oldest monuments explored in the exhibition are the Nazca lines, hundreds of ancient geoglyphs drawn into the southern desert of Peru by the Nazca people between 200 BCE and 500 CE. Recorded by photographers in the 20th century these enigmatic monuments are subject to plentiful theories about their meaning and purpose. In the exhibition, they are represented through photographs by Edward Ranney (American, b. 1942) who visited the sites repeatedly throughout the last half of the 20th century.

Juxtaposed with the Nazca images are photographs of earthworks created in the 1960s and 1970s by American artists who drew inspiration from these ancient monuments.

“Just as size and scale have been important in human efforts to mark cosmic and geological time, they are used by artists to invoke the monument and locate meaning. The phenomenology of the monument, the power structures behind monuments, and the meanings of monument, even when lost, are compelling subjects for contemporary artists,” said Frances Terpak exhibition co-curator and curator of photography at the Getty Research Institute. “Monuments are often made by artists but artists also take on the monument as a subject for exploring, deconstructing, and challenging.”

One of the newest objects in the exhibition is a deconstructed monument by Theaster Gates who is currently the artist in residence at the Getty Research Institute. For this exhibition Gates has toppled his own monumental piece Dancing Minstrel, 2016/18. Originally exhibited in 2016 as a larger-than-life bobble head depiction of the racist trope of the black minstrel, the installation at the Getty features the oversized parts of the figure scattered across the floor, a dramatic dismantling of a racist stereotype.

9The exhibition also considers monumentality in relation to cities, both real and imagined. Design proposals and plans for the never-built Palace of the Soviets submitted during and after a major international competition in 1931-1933 placed alongside a utopian plan to connect East and West Berlin at the height of the Cold War reveal how power is envisioned through the construction of the city and its monuments. The connection between monuments and the built environment is further explored through printed material, photographs, and ephemera. The impulse to document Los Angeles, for example, has spawned projects of enormous scope – such as Ed Ruscha’s extensive photo-documentations of Los Angeles Every Building on the Sunset Strip, 1966 and Hollywood Blvd, 1973 and 2002 and Lane Barden’s Linear City, a monumental tool for envisioning the city at the start of the 21st century by mapping its main arteries: water, rail, and automotive.

“Monuments, though often meant to stand for eternity, can physically change over time – from erosion, looting, war, or iconoclasm – or they can stay intact but change in their meaning, losing context or relevance, or becoming integrated with daily life in new ways. And monuments can form organically, through the ways that people interact with the built environment,” said Maristella Casciato, exhibition co-curator and curator of architecture at the Getty Research Institute. “MONUMENTality investigates the ways that monuments are necessarily dynamic, ultimately reflecting, through their endurance or failure, the world around them.”

MONUMENTality is curated by Frances Terpak, Maristella Casciato, and Katherine Rochester.

Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings
November 16, 2018 - February 10, 2019

The first major international exhibition of the work of American photographer Sally Mann. The exhibition explores themes of family, memory, mortality, and the Southern landscape as repository of personal and collective memory. Experimental, melancholic, and hauntingly beautiful, Mann’s photographs – many not exhibited before – expose how her relationship with the land has shaped her work and how the legacy of the South continues to permeate American identity. Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.

The Renaissance Nude
October 30, 2018–January 27, 2019

Inspired by a renewed interest in classical sculpture and closer study of nature, Renaissance artists made the nude body ever more vibrant, lifelike, and central to their practice. Yet, pious European Renaissance society was troubled by the nude and its new sensuality—a conflicted response echoed in the world today, where images of nudity have become ubiquitous. This exhibition, with more than 100 objects by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Dürer, and others, traces the nude’s controversial emergence and its transformative effect on European art and culture.

Art of Three Faiths: A Torah, a Bible, and a Qur’an
August 7, 2018 through February 3, 2019

The J. Paul Getty Museum recently announced the acquisition of the Rothschild Pentateuch, a manuscript of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Torah. Its acquisition, coupled with works already in the Museum’s manuscripts collection, allows the Getty to represent the medieval art of illumination in sacred texts from the three Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Art of Three Faiths: A Torah, a Bible, and a Qur’an, on view August 7, 2018 through February 3, 2019, showcases three spectacular examples of each of these three: a Christian Bible and a Qur’an will be shown alongside the newly acquired Torah.

“This landmark acquisition fulfills one of the Museum’s longstanding goals of adding to our collection a Hebrew manuscript that can stand comparison in quality and importance to our finest illuminated manuscripts of other languages and faiths,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “It has taken 35 years, but the Rothschild Pentateuch fills this gap more brilliantly than we could ever have imagined. An amazingly rare and beautiful object, richly illuminated with all manner of real and imaginary animals, it also broadens greatly the narratives we are able to tell about life, culture and religion in the Middle Ages. The acquisition will be a highlight of an upcoming exhibition that brings together – for the first time at the Getty – the sacred texts of the three Abrahamic religions, something that I am sure will deepen the experience of these works for many of our visitors, and be a rich subject of study for scholars.”

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam trace their belief in the singular God to a common patriarch, the figure of Abraham. The practitioners of all three religions have been called “people of the book” for their shared belief in the importance of the divine word, rendered in medieval manuscripts in glowing gold and luminous colors on parchment.

The Torah is the central sacred text of Judaism. In the strictest sense, the word refers to the Pentateuch, which contains the books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Illuminated copies of the Hebrew Bible in codex form, rather than Torah scrolls, began to appear in the mid-thirteenth century. In northern Europe, these manuscripts served the needs of members of the Ashkenazi Jewish community who had settled in the area along the Rhine River. Lavishly illustrated Hebrew manuscripts are exceedingly rare, since Jewish artisans were forbidden by law to join painting guilds. Hebrew manuscripts were often written by itinerant Jewish scribes and illuminated by local, sometimes Christian, artists. Illumination of the Hebrew Bible centers on the calligraphic forms of the letters, such as initials, word panels, or decorative frames around blocks of text.

”The three objects on display are exceptionally beautiful artworks that we hope will spark meaningful dialogue among various audiences,” said Elizabeth Morrison, senior curator of Manuscripts at the Getty Museum. “Museums offer more than simply an aesthetic experience. Through exhibitions such as this one, they foster a deeper understanding of history that helps us to reflect on our own shared experiences.”

Among the earliest bound and illuminated codices from the Mediterranean world are copies of the Christian Bible written in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Ge’ez, Armenian, and other languages. The first part of the Christian Bible consists of texts from the Hebrew Bible, referred to since the second century by Christian writers as the Old Testament. Medieval Christians understood it not only as a historical document but also as a body of prophecy that specifically foretold the coming of Christ. The New Testament comprises accounts of Christ’s life, the Gospels, letters to churches or individuals from his disciples, such as apostles Peter and Paul, and a text about the end of time known as Apocalypse or Revelation. Illuminated Bibles—handwritten and printed alike—are among the most enduring forms of Christian book art produced during the Middle Ages.

The words that the angel Jibril (Gabriel) recited to the prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah, about 560-632, formed the sacred text of the Qur’an. The opening line, “In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful,” a central tenet of Islam that expresses submission to the will of Allah, is repeated in almost every surah or chapter. Muslims transmitted scripture through oral tradition for the first few centuries, and later recorded it through beautiful and ornate calligraphy. Artists incorporated Quranic verses into books, textiles, coins, ceramics, and architecture, demonstrating reverence for the written word. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Islamic word spanned a vast territory, from the Iberian Peninsula to northern and coastal Africa, across the Mediterranean basin, and as far as Central and Eastern Asia.

Art of Three Faiths: A Torah, a Bible, and a Qur’an is curated by Kristen Collins, Bryan Keene, and Elizabeth Morrison, of the department of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition will be on view August 7, 2018 through February 3, 2019.

A Queen’s Treasure from Versailles: Marie-Antoinette’s Japanese Lacquer
Through January 6, 2019
South Pavilion, Plaza Level

Free | No ticket required

A Queen’s Treasure brings to the Getty precious examples of Japanese lacquer from the personal collection of the French queen Marie-Antoinette (1755–1793). Her collection of small lacquer boxes was one of the finest assembled in Europe, and she considered them to be among her most cherished possessions. The elaborate and costly works reveal a fascinating example of the queen’s sophisticated taste and demonstrate the consistent level of achievement attained by Japanese lacquer artists during the mid-Edo period (about 1681–1764) when these pieces were created.

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