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BIG NAMES WANT GETTY POST DIRECTOR'S QUITTING FOLLOWED BY RASH OF CALLS FROM INTERESTED CANDIDATES.

Byline: Valerie Kuklenski Staff Writer

Within hours of learning of the surprise resignation of the director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, many candidates quickly threw their names in the hat to take her place, officials said Tuesday.

Barry Munitz, chairman and chief executive officer of the J. Paul Getty Trust, said the day after the announcement of Deborah Gribbon's resignation was ``an intriguing, fascinating day.''

``Not the least fascinating pieces of it are the calls from people who'd love to have the job, which has completely taken me aback,'' Munitz said, characterizing the unidentified prospects as ``remarkably important people.''

``It's intrigued me for two reasons - one, that it happened so quickly, and the other, that they don't seem to be the least bit distressed about the situation here.''

``The situation'' is Gribbon's departure on Oct. 31 over differences ``on a number of critical issues'' with the leaders of the trust. She did not elaborate on those conflicts in her written statement nor in an interview Tuesday.

``I truly do believe that the point here is to not let these differences become a distraction'' from the Getty's work, she said.

Munitz maintained that he did not know what differences would have compelled Gribbon to step down after 20 years with the Getty Museum, the last four as its director. Gribbon's reportedly made in excess of $425,000 in 2002.

``It's not big by size, but this is a very wealthy, very complicated institution,'' said Munitz, former chancellor of California State University. ``People have different styles. They have different values. That happens all the time. I've never believed that the criteria for success was everybody being the same.''

He also questioned reports of a morale problem at the institution.

``If morale in a museum is such an issue, I'm not responsible for the museum. And it's got to be interesting that the deputy (William Griswold) has agreed to be the acting director.''

Her departure comes as the Getty Trust is preparing for next fall's reopening of the Getty Villa in Malibu, the first public home to the art collection developed by oil magnate J. Paul Getty. It will house the trust's well-known Greek and Roman antiquities.

Gribbon is one of a number of high-ranking officials who have left the Getty in recent years, among them executive vice president and chief operating officer Stephen Rountree and senior executive Lori Starr. Rountree left to take charge of the Los Angeles Music Center as it was opening the Disney Concert Hall, while Starr moved to the senior vice president post at the Skirball Cultural Center. Munitz pointed to both as great promotions.

``In a place like this, people come and go,'' he said. ``They're very visible, they're terrific, and people are going to pick them off.''

Gribbon was associate director and chief curator through the museum's acquisition boom in the late 1980s through the mid-'90s, when its purchases of important works by van Gogh, Monet and others attracted attention within the art world and without.

In the four years she was director, the museum acquired more than 500 works, notably a mid-16th century Titian portrait and the gothic panel painting ``The Adoration of the Magi with Saint Anthony Abbot,'' dating to around 1400.

Valerie Kuklenski, (818) 713-3750

valerie.kuklenski(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 20, 2004
Words:548
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