Getty Trust president and CEO James Wood has died of natural causes

Getty Trust president and CEO James Wood has died at 69.

James Wood, president and CEO of the Getty Trust, has passed away unexpectedly at age 69, reportedly of natural causes.

James N. Wood

A highly respected museum leader, he had come out of retirement following his 25-year tenure at the Art Institute of Chicago to help restore the reputation of the Getty which had suffered during the scandal-wracked tenure of his predecessor Barry Munitz. But it was not an easy time to manage the Getty’s affairs. The economic downturn trimmed a quarter of the value from the Getty’s $6-billion endowment leading Wood to make severe cuts in staff and programs. A former museum director hiimself, he clashed with Getty Museum director Michael Brand, particularly about the control of acquisition funds. Brand stepped down in January and has yet to be replaced. The Getty just released its 2009 financial statement which indicates that the trust was still facing fiscal contraints. The trust issued a statement earlier today:

DATE: June 12, 2010


Los Angeles — We are deeply saddened to announce that J. Paul Getty Trust President and CEO James N. Wood has passed away suddenly of natural causes.

Jim was internationally recognized as a leader in the arts.  His passion for the visual arts and quiet, yet firm leadership were a perfect fit for the Getty.  We were able to entice Jim to come to the Getty out of retirement, after 25 years as the head of the Art Institute of Chicago, and in just a little over three years under Jim’s leadership, the Getty moved forward in significant ways toward a renewed and strengthened mission.

Jim valued collaboration, and he reinforced that value at the Getty. Working with the Board, Jim led a strategic planning process that emphasized ways in which the Getty’s four programs could work together to further enhance the institution’s already strong worldwide reputation.  He also saw the Getty as a catalyst to encourage Los Angeles’ many outstanding visual arts institutions to collaborate, strengthening our region’s stature as a major cultural center.

He was a private man, who acted with great kindness, strength, and dignity.  The Board and the Getty’s entire staff mourn his loss, and we extend our deepest sympathy to Jim’s wife, Emese, their daughters Lenke and Rebecca, and their families.

Wood served as director and president of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1980-2004, after which he retired with his wife Emese to Rhode Island before his appointment as President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust in December 2006.  He assumed his position as CEO in February 2007, after an extensive search conducted by the Board of Trustees.

Prior to directing the Art Institute of Chicago, Wood was the director of The St. Louis Art Museum (1975-1980), an adjunct professor of art history at SUNY at Buffalo and associate director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York.  He also held positions at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  Wood sat on the boards of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, the Harvard University Art Museums, and the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design.  He was also president of the board of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.

Wood, 69, received his B.A. with honors in Art History from Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. and his M.A. from the Institute for Fine Arts at New York University.  He also holds a diploma from the University for Foreigners in Perugia, Italy.  Wood’s areas of specialization included European paintings and sculpture of the 16th to 20th centuries, American painting and sculpture of the 19th to 20th centuries, and photography.

Arrangements are pending.


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Jason Edward Kaufman is an art historian and critic with expertise in museums and the international art world.

A complete list of past articles is available here.


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