Gordon and Ann Getty in 1998
Gordon and Ann Getty in 1998 | Credit: Bruce Forrester

Gordon Getty, 88, today announced formation of the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts, to be supported by the expected multi-million dollar proceeds from the sale of his late wife’s art collection.

Getty, one the world’s most eminent supporters of the arts — including SF Classical Voice which he co-founded in 1999 with Robert and Mary Commanday — has made essential contributions to the SF Symphony, the Russian National Orchestra, SF Conservatory of Music, and countless organizations around the world.  

Ann Getty’s fine art collection and decorative furnishings of the Gettys’s San Francisco residence will be sold in October in auctions handled by Christie’s New York, and the proceeds will be distributed to selected charitable organizations promptly after the sale.

Getty House
The Getty residence in San Francisco during a fundraiser event | Credit: Paul Kotapish

A preliminary estimate of the worth of the collection is $180 million, according to Christie’s, and the designated beneficiaries include leading California-based organizations with whom the Gettys have had a longstanding relationship, including the SF Conservatory of Music, SF Opera, SF Symphony, University of San Francisco, Berkeley Geochronology Center, and the Leakey Foundation.

“Tragically and unexpectedly, Ann Getty passed away September 14, 2020,” said a statement from the Foundation. “To fulfill their plan, Gordon Getty has taken the steps necessary to establish and fund the Foundation and to proceed with the sale.”

Getty is quoted as saying that he is “committed to ensure that this dream will be fulfilled. The sale will honor Ann's remarkable eye for design and storytelling through her exquisite taste, intellect, and curiosity. The Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts will leave a legacy for future generations.”

Gordon Getty
Gordon Getty | Credit: Emily Polar

The couple is said to have planned this move for several years, believing that “the Collection is a fitting metaphor for the importance of creativity and academic study. Throughout Ann’s lifetime, she manifested this understanding brilliantly. Gordon has never wavered in his belief that the arts and sciences, seeded through education, produce fertile ground. The Gettys’ plan was structured to implement their joint philanthropic commitment to creativity and learning and their recognition that art, in all its forms, is vital to ensuring a community’s prosperity.”

According to a statement today by Christie’s, the New York auction of “1,500 superlative works of decorative and fine arts, featuring rare Chinese decorative arts and masterworks by Canaletto, Cassatt, and Matisse” will be preceded by an international tour beginning in Hong Kong this month. Christie’s statement continues:

Ann Getty’s intellect, curiosity and masterful feel for assemblage guided the Gettys in curating a world-renowned museum-quality collection across their Californian houses, including the very finest examples of English and European furniture, Asian works of art, European ceramics, Chinese export porcelain, silver, European and Asian textiles, and Impressionist and Old Master paintings.

Vivid, daring, and steeped in history, the Collection evokes the golden age of England’s great houses; the fabled Grand Tour; the exotic tastes of the European courts; the feats of women adventurers, such as Isabella Bird in India and Gertrude Bell in the Middle East; and the vibrant intellectual circle of the Blue Stockings in the mid-18th century, such as Mary Delany and Queen Charlotte.

Ann Getty masterfully styled each of their residences with distinctive details, themes, and layering. The Collection encapsulated the couple’s intellectual curiosity about the arts, music, science, and travel. Every object was hand-picked with a deep appreciation of its beauty and the artisanship that went into its creation.

Christie’s Americas President Bonnie Brennan added:

“The Getty Collection is one of America’s legendary treasures. It tells a prolific international story of passion and patronage — the life’s work of an extraordinary American family whose philanthropy has indelibly shaped the arts and culture in the United States.

“We are honored to have been entrusted by Gordon and the late Ann Getty to share their incomparable collecting journey with a global audience, and, through the sale of their collection at Christie’s, to continue their commitment to supporting the arts and sciences through the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts.”