Inside the Museum: An Interview with Getty Director Timothy Potts

Inside the Museum: An Interview with Getty Director Timothy Potts

“Inside the Museum: An Interview with Getty Director Timothy Potts”

20 students took the bus to the Laguna Art Museum to hear Timothy Potts, the director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, speak about his career, the Getty collection, and the role of the museum in modern life. Here’s what a few of them had to say.

Looking In
by Celyn Matienzo, English

Timothy Potts' lecture in the museum today opened up the museum world to me in ways that I had never thought about. So often when I visit a museum, the extent of my consideration usually only reaches the art that is part of the exhibit or the permanent collection or the artists themselves. New exhibits and events would come and go without a passing thought. Though I had volunteered and worked briefly at a museum before coming to college, I had thought once that running a museum sounded simple and that curating was simply choosing what pieces to put on the walls or in the rooms and how to arrange them.

Dr. Potts spoke about different sections of the Getty Museum of Art and how it has more of some types of art than of others. During my time as a student volunteer at the museum, I had never spoken to our director about the thought and the care that goes into choosing pieces for a permanent collection. The museum I worked with, a subdivision of the Palm Springs Art Museum, seemed less concerned with having a wide variety of cultures and time periods and styles and instead focused on the kinds of art that the surrounding community might be interested in. While The Getty is a large museum that draws a wide and diverse audience, I remember our small museum being much more closely tailored to the expectations and interests of the community and local artists. While it's true that the experience of going to the museum to see a piece has not changed, the museum plays a large role in what a visitor will take away from it.

Inside the Museum
by Rachael Jeanne Heinsen, English

I noticed a thread running through Dr. Potts’ comments: the commodification of artistic objects. Dr. Potts mentioned the museum’s budget, how the museum acquires artwork, and the various factors influencing those acquisitions. I’m wondering what this commodification does to artwork and how we perceive it. Marx talks about how when objects are taken to market, those objects that previously just had use values, are assigned exchange values. This transformation—abstraction from use to exchange value—actually changes the object itself. The case of artwork is an interesting one—what are we to say is the use value of a piece of art? In what ways does commodifying artwork change the piece itself?

I’d like to read about the commodification of visual art. I’m usually not very interested in visual art, but this talk sparked my interest and got me asking questions. That’s what I love about Illuminations—the opportunity to learn and discover new interests concerning artwork and disciplines I don’t encounter in my chosen field of study.

Museums and A Technological Future
by Noemi Xitlalic Valadez-Monarrez (Major undecided)

Thanks for giving us the chance to participate in this unique event! 

This talk impacted me the most in the sense that I never thought about the situations museums may face today: technology, whether to implement it within the museum, and to what extent in terms of implementation. Museums have always strived to live up to our modern era, but there is a realization where they can be obsolete. Technology has made so many products and services obsolete--from typewriters to Blockbuster. 

Someone asked Dr. Potts about his opinion on whether to use more technology or not in the museum, and he states that if it enhances the way viewers learn more about the art piece, then that is supported. 

That led me to think... are all museums forced to modernize, to an extent, in order to avoid being obsolete, in terms of keeping up with our technological future? Can museums stay modern and fresh without abiding to modern technology?

Maybe, due to the necessity of obtaining information through new means of technology or due to the high technological consumerism, they are forced to. Maybe some museums can be an example of not giving in to the excitement. And, maybe there is that somewhat-grey area Mr. Potts stand in, where there shouldn't be absolute implementation of technology.

I'm not sure what the absolute answers are to all of these question, but I know I wouldn't have given a thought to this if I didn't attend the event. Here's to seeing what the future has in store for the museum world.