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Art is long, and life is brief; at least that’s what they say.

December 10, 1998 | 7:00 pm

The museum world in Los Angeles looks as though it is in for a significant challenge.

The evidence underscoring this was suggested last week in a story reported in The New York Times. On the surface, the story read like an account of the Getty Center one year after the new building had opened its doors atop Brentwood to a staggering almost-2 million visitors. Barry Munitz, who succeeded Harold Williams as head of the Getty late last year, relayed to a reporter what sounded like an end-of-year summary. There had been personnel changes, unanticipated problems with the structure (e.g. not enough bathrooms to accompany the large crowds) and planned modifications in fund-raising policy.

It was the last item that caught everyone's attention.

Munitz, 57, explained that the Getty's $5 billion endowment, one of the largest museum endowments in the world, had thus far been the Center's only source of existence; and that, indeed, he hoped to tranform the Getty into an institution that worked collaboratively with other art and cultural centers as well as with corporate and individual sponsors. One alteration in policy that might follow: The Getty would now seek financial support from individuals and corporations

Already Aetna Insurance was planning to co-sponsor a Degas photo exhibition currently on display at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and which is scheduled for the Getty next year. Meanwhile, Munitz is looking for partners to conceptualize and carry out a variety of cultural projects. He is also, according to one critic, courting Hollywood's elite.

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