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December 13, 2005

LOS ANGELES—The Getty has acquired an important video art archive spanning three decades of innovation in this modern medium from the Long Beach Museum of Art and the City of Long Beach.  In partnership with the Long Beach Museum of Art, the works will be transferred to the Research Library at the Getty Research Institute (GRI), where they will be preserved and made accessible to researchers for study and presented in public and scholarly programming. With this addition, the GRI will have one of the largest institutional collections of video art in the world, and the most extensive holding of works produced in Southern California.

“Artists have always sought novel and innovative means to express their ideas, particularly in ways that connect with the culture around them,” says Thomas Crow, director of the Getty Research Institute. “Video art has expanded since its beginnings in the 1960’s to become the dominant art form of our time.”

Crow adds, “The Long Beach archive is unparalleled as a public collection of art. There are tapes catalogued here that don’t exist in any other holdings, including some that the artists themselves believed were lost.  We want to make sure this legacy is preserved.”

Hal Nelson, director of the Long Beach Museum of Art, states: “From the mid-1970s to the 1990s, the Long Beach Museum of Art provided invaluable support to the field by exhibiting, co-producing and collecting video art. Through this long-standing commitment, Long Beach developed one of the most significant video collections in this country. However, for years we have lacked the resources to properly conserve and make the videos available to the public. We are delighted that the Getty is committed to the field and to the preservation of this immensely important archive.”

The collection of more than 3,000 tapes and supporting documents consists of single-channel video art, as well as taped interviews with artists, collectors, and curators, and documentation of performances and other art events in Southern California.  It is an important record of the early and continuing history of video art, and a crucial component of the region’s cultural history. Containing numerous masterpieces in the medium, the collection comprises the largest gathering of video art works produced in Los Angeles and Southern California.  Pioneers of the art form are represented, such as Nam June Paik, Joan Jonas, John Baldessari, William Wegman and Bill Viola.  Also included are the video archive from the Los Angeles-based Women’s Building, extensive holdings of historical video art from Europe, and strong examples of work from Latin America and Japan.

The Long Beach Museum of Art was among the first to focus on video as an artistic medium, spurring similar efforts throughout the United States.  Beginning in 1974, the museum began collecting and exhibiting video art, developing one of the most creative and ambitious video exhibition programs in the world.  The museum actively encouraged the development of video art by offering editing facilities to artists, and pursued innovative approaches to the display of video art, including several experiments with broadcast television.  Over time the tapes, many of which are in obsolete formats, have remained in storage and started to deteriorate.  At the GRI, these tapes will be preserved and transferred to stable formats so that they can once again be made available for viewing and study.

The special collections of the Research Library at the GRI also include video works in the recently acquired High Performance magazine archives, and in the archives of musician David Tudor, artist Allan Kaprow, and collector Jean Brown.  The GRI’s contemporary film and video programming includes screenings, seminars, talks, and conferences.  This acquisition of the Long Beach Museum video archive represents a commitment to video art—exploring and preserving its history, supporting research and scholarship in the medium, and encouraging its continued development.  A conference on collecting and preserving video art is currently being planned in relation to the newly acquired video art collection.

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Beth Brett
Getty Communications Department

About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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