The Getty Center
Richard Sennett, a past speaker in the Getty Perspectives series

This occasional series brings distinctive voices to the Getty to discuss the arts and the relationship of visual culture to our broader public culture.

Recently in the series

The Shape of Ancient Thought
April 27, 2016
Renowned German artist Anselm Kiefer comes to the Getty to present his continuing exploration of the impact of ancient literature and philosophy on Western culture. An avid reader interested in philosophy and the arts, Kiefer has created numerous artist books and photographs inspired by critic Thomas McEvilley's 2001 book The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies, a monumental and celebrated tome which suggests that, due to migrations and trade, Western culture was influenced by both Greek and Indian thought.

Alva Noë and William Forsythe
November 12, 2015
Alva Noë, professor of philosophy at UC Berkeley, discusses his new book Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature with choreographer and installation artist William Forsythe.

David Hockney: Painting and Photography
September 10, 2015
Artist David Hockney draws on his life-long interests to present his latest–and ever-evolving–theories about perspective and the relationships between painting and photography.

Sarah Elizabeth Lewis
May 3, 2015
Cultural historian Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, a Du Bois Fellow at Harvard University and author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery, speaks about the power of aesthetic force to alter the way we perceive the world and bring about social change. Lewis has worked as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London, and served on President Obama's Arts Policy Committee.

James Cuno and John Currin
September 14, 2014
President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust James Cuno and artist John Currin discuss how classical painting shaped Currin's modern interpretation of the form. Their conversation considers Currin's works in the Broad collections and classical paintings at the Getty.

Is the News Driving Us Crazy?
March 6, 2014
Philosopher Alain de Botton, whose insights on everything from love to art and architecture have made him a best-selling author in 30 countries, discusses what the news is doing to our brains, our souls, and our views of one another.

Art and Neuroscience: Possibilities for the Future
October 17, 2013
David Freedberg, Pierre Matisse Professor of the History of Art at Columbia University, discusses how new developments in cognitive neuroscience helps us better understand viewers' responses to works of art. He gives examples of motor responses to paintings and sculptures, examining the ways our aesthetic senses are activated by our emotional and physical engagement with the visual arts.

James Cuno and Pico Iyer
May 28, 2013
James Cuno, president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, and author Pico Iyer discuss museums, cosmopolitan culture, flights into the foreign, and other timely topics.

Taryn Simon in Conversation
October 17, 2012
Photographer Taryn Simon presented A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters. For this project, Simon spent four years traveling around the world researching bloodlines and their related stories. The 18 chapters in this work collectively map relationships among chance, blood, and other components of fate.

Is Anthropomorphism the Basis of Religion? Some Observations Suggested by Late Medieval Devotional Objects
October 11, 2012
Caroline Walker Bynum, professor emerita of Western medieval history at the Institute for Advanced Study, questioned theories that religion resides in a human need to see the world as anthropomorphic, thus challenging the conception both of the holy and of objects such theories imply.

The Age of Insight
September 19, 2012
Eric Kandel, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at Columbia University, outlined our understanding of the cognitive psychological and neurobiological basis of perception, memory, emotion, empathy, and creativity. He examined how cognitive psychology and brain biology have joined to explore how the viewer perceives and responds to art.

Endless Summer
May 23, 2012
Critic and artist Peter Plagens, author of Sunshine Muse, ushered in the warm season with thoughts on the relationship between art and the summer months.

The Book of Revelation: Its Cultural Impact on Art, Music, and Politics
March 20, 2012
Using her new book, Revelations, as a springboard, Elaine Pagels, author and professor of religion at Princeton University, explored the strangest book in the Bible—the book of Revelation—and showed its enormous impact on art, music, and politics.

Winter Scenes
February 23, 2012
New Yorker contributor Adam Gopnik spoke about the vision of winter in modern art as it coursed through the German Romantic (and nationalist) paintings of Caspar David Friedrich to the sublime Swiss vistas of J. M. W. Turner, to the stylish Japanese-inflected snowstorms of Claude Monet and Camille Pissaro, and beyond.

The Ruins Lesson
May 5, 2011
Susan Stewart, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Princeton University, examined the ruin as a subject for printmaking, especially from the Renaissance into the 18th-century, and for poetry in the 18th and 19th centuries. Stewart outlined the ruin as both an experienced phenomenon and a problem in representation.

Andrei Codrescu: The Poetry Lesson
February 23, 2011
Award-winning poet, essayist, and commentator Andrei Codrescu followed up on last year's how-to-live-as-art manual, The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess, with a "comic masterpiece," The Poetry Lesson. At the Getty, Codrescu talked art, poetry, and made you feel in peril.

Peter Greenaway: New Possibilities: Cinema and Art History
December 15, 2010
Acclaimed filmmaker Peter Greenaway discussed Nine Classic Paintings Revisited, a series of installations in which he uses cinematic techniques to explore paintings by Rembrandt, Veronese, and Leonardo. Greenaway talked about the three completed installations and plans for six more, in addition to his new production about Henrik Goltzius, a 16th-century engraver of erotic prints.

Edmund de Waal: A Hidden Inheritance: Objects, Memories, and Collections
October 5, 2010
Edmund de Waal, renowned ceramicist, curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and author of the new book The Hare with Amber Eyes, explored the ascent and decline of a Jewish dynasty in his October lecture at the Getty Center. Using examples from his family collections, including some works now at the Getty Museum as well as a group of netsuke that he inherited, de Waal examined how we can understand collecting as a family story.

Geoff Dyer: How Do We Experience Art?
May 13, 2010
In his most recent novel, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, Geoff Dyer creates the character Jeff Atman. Dyer uses his character to examine the role of art in fiction and the idea of importing art to Venice. Dyer came to the Getty to explore the significant role that art plays in literature and in the understanding of a place.

Legacy: Black and White in America
March 16, 2010
Legacy: Black and White in America, an 80-minute documentary that premiered on PBS, explores the legacy of the civil rights movement and looks at the lives of African Americans today through conversations with celebrated figures. Following the screening of this film at the Harold M. Williams Auditorium, cultural commentator Lawrence Weschler led a discussion of the impact of race and civil rights in contemporary art and museum practice with artists Kerry James Marshall and Daniel Joseph Martinez; scholar and curator Nizan Shaked; and Richard Karz, producer of Legacy: Black and White in America.

Richard Sennett on Art and Craft
December 3, 2009
Since at least the Renaissance, fine artists have proudly distinguished their creativity from the handiwork of craftsmen. But are there really such clear boundaries between the work of the mind and the work of the hand? In this inspiring lecture, sociologist and author Richard Sennett considered the artificial boundaries between art and craft, expression and technique, suggesting that the desire to do a job well for its own sake is a key human impulse. The talk complemented the exhibitions Irving Penn: Small Trades and In Focus: The Worker.

Errol Morris and Ricky Jay on Art and Perception
October 8, 2009
Can anyone truly tell reality from illusion? When we pride ourselves on our ability to distinguish real from fake, forgery from masterpiece, are we only engaging in self-deception? Filmmaker Errol Morris and sleight-of-hand artist Ricky Jay considered these questions in a wide-ranging discussion of art and perception, offering a thought-provoking evening that challenged what we think we know about art and about ourselves.

Bill Ivey and Lewis Hyde on Cultural Rights
June 2, 2009
In the inaugural Getty Perspectives event, Bill Ivey and Lewis Hyde discussed the social value of the arts, of the cultural commons, and how policy and theory should ensure open access to creative work. Ivey was chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts from 1998 to 2001 and leader of President Obama's transition team on arts and the humanities, and is the author of the recent book Arts, Inc.." Hyde is a poet, essayist, translator, and cultural critic with a particular interest in the public life of the imagination.

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