The Art Assassin

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang

Chapter 10: ASSASSINATION: Rebecca Taylor, Associate Communications Specialist at J. Paul Getty Trust

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Photographic portrait of Rebecca Taylor. Courtesy of Rebecca Taylor.

Rebecca Taylor, who works as the associate communications specialist at J. Paul Getty Trust and an instructor at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) Extension. She has worked for public relations at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), the associate director at ACE Gallery, and also an internship for post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s.

She describes herself as “I’m an art-loving Angeleno who works at the Getty and teaches at UCLA extension. If I’m not Twittering, I’m probably at a lecture, opening, or talking about art.”

if you have any questions about Taylor’s work at J. Paul Getty Trust or her classes at UCLA Extension, feel free to contact her privately at

So here are THE ART ASSASSIN’s details of the “assassination”:

qi peng: To start off on a lighter note, what are some of your favorite artists, books, television shows, sports, art magazines, toys, movies, and other cultural artifacts that you wish to share with your fans of your work here?

Rebecca Taylor: I particularly enjoy reading, and read all the major newspapers and art magazines regularly (artforum, Art in America, frieze, Art + Auction, Modern Painters, etc.). In terms of books, I tend to read non-fiction literary classics or books about art and art theory. Most recently I’ve read Sarah Thornton’s Seven Days in the Art World, Erin Hogan’s Spiral Jetta, Danielle Ganek’s Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him, and Michael Kimmelman’s The Accidental Masterpiece. My all-time favorite books are A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare, The Painter of Modern Life by Baudelaire, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Ellison’s Invisible Man—I could go on for pages.

I also do a lot of reading online—closely following the blogs of CultureMonster (LAT), ArtsBeat (NYT), the Guardian, Tyler Green, David Ross, Regina Hackett, and many others.

qi peng: Do you have any recent galleries or exhibitions that you have seen and would to recommend to us? What things in those shows sparked your interest in art and celebration of your imagination?

Rebecca Taylor: I have just come back from NY where I saw quite a few excellent shows. I had high expectations for Jenny Holzer at the Whitney Museum, and the show did not disappoint. A surprise treasure was Die Brucke at the Neue Galerie, one of my favorite museums on the Upper East Side. The Kirchners alone are worth the visit uptown.

Back in LA, the Art of Two Germanys at LACMA is one of the best museum shows I’ve seen in years. Immendorf’s burning swastikas, Richter’s photorealist painting of Uncle Rudi, and Kiefer’s German Spiritual heroes all still haunt me. I was also pleased to see the brilliant and talented Llyn Foulkes included in the Hammer’s Nine Lives exhibition. I’ve known Llyn’s work for years and have always been surprised by how under-recognized and under-appreciated he is. From the art world buzz around his work in this show, I believe that is already beginning to change.   On a slightly lighter note, Dan Graham at MOCA is an incredible multi-sensory experience for the viewer from the seductive large-scale sculptures to the intimate viewing opportunities of Graham’s compelling 70s videos.

qi peng: What a typical working day as the associate communication specialist at J. Paul Getty Trust like? What is the mission of the J. Paul Getty Trust and in what ways do you promote their goals to the public? What have been some of the joys and challenging working one of the most prominent institutions of the art world?

Rebecca Taylor: At any given time I’m working on 10-15 exhibitions that are currently on view and/or opening in the next year. For example, my current projects include Taking Shape: Finding Sculpture in the Decorative Arts and Captured Emotions: Baroque Paintings from Bologna (both on view now), Cast in Bronze: French Sculpture from Renaissance to Revolution (opening in June), and Drawings by Rembrandt and his Pupils: Telling the Difference (opening in December). Perpetually working on such a variety of exhibitions—in terms of time periods, movements, etc.—gives me the opportunity for perpetual learning and growth. These exhibitions also provide great opportunity for dialogue with leading scholars in each of these fields, as well as colleagues at other institutions who are lenders or collaborators.

My daily routine varies depending upon how many planning meetings I have and the proximity to an exhibition opening, but I’m in constant dialogue with the press, via both telephone and email, and usually writing at least one to two press releases at a given time. In addition to exhibitions, I also work on special announcements of collaborations with other museums or major acquisitions, which always inject some excitement into my routine.

One of the greatest perks of working in one of the world’s premiere institutions is the accessibility of great works of art, not to mention the brilliant people who work at the Getty and visit from institutions around the world. I hope to never take that opportunity for granted and thus try to attend lectures, visit the conservation lab, or just spend an hour in the galleries, at least a few times a week.

qi peng: Your formal art education was at Chapman University and Christie’s Education. What were those years of education like? Were there any influential professors and fellow students whose ideas inspired your current in contemporary artwork? Are there any memorable stories from your school days that had an impact on your life’s outlook? How do you assess the current state of art education in relation to museum studies, the art market, and careers in the field?

Rebecca Taylor: I am someone who absolutely loves learning so college and graduate school were absolutely wonderful periods in my life. Chapman is a small, liberal arts college with rarely more than 30 students to a classroom, so this provided an incredible opportunity to get to know fellow students and the professors on a more personal level. Wendy Salmond, Marilyn Harran, Micol Hebron, Carolyn Shiery, and Eileen Jankowski were among the wonderful professors there who helped shape the person I have become.

I received my masters from Christie’s in New York, and this experience was absolutely unparalleled. In addition to typical art history 101 seminar courses, the program sought to give students a more well-rounded understanding of the art world with courses in connoisseurship, the methodologies of art history, the history of the art market, and art in context. The field studies were perhaps the most incredible part of the program. We went behind the scenes with specialists at Christie’s, visited to the conservation lab at MoMA, toured Agnes Gund’s home, etc.

qi peng: Are there any places which you would like to travel someday to? Which places would you find inspiring to see artwork and have some memorable experiences to share with others?

Rebecca Taylor: Traveling is a passion that often goes hand-in-hand with a love of art and culture, and I was indeed bitten by the travel bug at an early age. I’ve been fortunate to visit most of Western Europe (France, Germany, England, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Austria, etc.) and some of Eastern Europe (Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, etc.), as well as Western Russia. My first visit to the Hermitage, nearly 10 years ago now, was an experience I’ll never forget. Tourism in Russia was fairly low at the time and I was alone in rooms of the Winter Palace with works by Kandinsky, Poussin, Rubens, and Matisse – even though I’d seen works by these artists many times before, it was almost like meeting each of these for the first time. Whilst I love visiting the major institutions, I often find the most intense experiences at those lesser known or lesser frequented museums. For instance, when I lived in London, I visited the Courtauld nearly once a week to sit in contemplation before Manet’s brilliant Bar at the Folies-Bergere, and when I’m in New York I scarcely miss a visit to the Neue Galerie. Similarly, works that require a little more effort to get to, often yield the greatest reward, such as Matisse’s Rosary Chapel in France or Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.

My art bucket list includes Walter de Maria’s Lightning Field, Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, Turrell’s Roden Crater, and the Judd Foundation in Marfa. I’d also like to visit China as I hear amazing stories of the work being produced in both Shanghai and Beijing right now. New Delhi, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi are also high on my list for future travels.

qi peng: On a lighter note, do you have any favorite restaurants, hangouts, or cool places around Los Angeles or anywhere else that you would like to recommend to your fans and readers here? What do you like best about the places that you have chosen?

Rebecca Taylor: Los Angeles is such a wonderful city; I’m constantly discovering wonderful new restaurants and hangouts. My favorite restaurant is Mastro’s in Beverly Hills, but I also love Koi, Mr. Chow, and Comme Ca. Brunch is probably my favorite meal and there are so many fabulous places to dine al fresco in LA. I frequent the Lazy Daisy, Toast, the Farm, and Ivy by the Shore. In terms of nightlife, the Other Room in Venice has such a fun, relaxed, neighborhood vibe, and I love the Mandrake in Culver City for socializing with the local arts community.

qi peng: You are involved a lot with new technologies in relation to communicating your thoughts about art to the public. How did you get involved with Twitter as your main tool of self-expression? What do you enjoy about using Facebook in relations to the arts? Do you think that Facebook has a strong impact in the arts community and if so, how?

Rebecca Taylor: I joined Facebook years ago to “reconnect with old friends,” just like most people. It was only in the past year that I saw a profound change in the way the site was used from reconnecting to networking. Last fall, Jerry Saltz, Paul Schimmel, and other art world heavy hitters joined the FB community and the arts community there seemed to explode shortly thereafter. Facebook provides a terrific opportunity for keeping up with colleagues and art lovers around the world, both personally and professionally. Not to mention, I receive hundreds of invites a day to interesting art projects and openings around the world.

I was resistant to Twitter at first but loyal Twitterer Tyler Green, unknowingly, convinced me to give it a try. I joined in early December and just listened for about a month. Once I began to see the merits of twitter, and realized where I could add value to the arts community there by twittering, I began tweeting and have scarcely stopped since. I use Twitter to share thoughts/ideas from the many lectures I attend, as well as to share opinions on exhibitions I have seen. A few months ago, I also started tweeting a Daily #mustcart, which is a work of art that I recommend people see before they die. It’s an art bucket list of sorts. More so than anything, I look forward to the dialogue I have with other Art Tweeters. I dialogue constantly with my colleagues at local, national and international institutions. It’s an incredible resource for opinions and advice from art world experts. I’ve also become acquainted with artists and art enthusiasts in far corners of the world, so I’m constantly learning and broadening my horizons.

qi peng: Some of your previous occupations have included the following: internship at the Post-War and Contemporary section at Christie’s, associate director at ACE Gallery, and public relations at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (LA MOCA). Would you mind sharing your experiences there and how those positions influenced your current work at the Getty Trust as well as teaching at UCLA? What was life like at ACE Gallery?

Rebecca Taylor: When i first moved to LA, I interned in the Post-War and Contemporary department at Christie’s Beverly Hills with the specialist Deborah McLeod. She was an incredible role model for me and gave me the opportunity to work with her on major projects and learn from her years of experience in the LA art world. Working at Ace Gallery was a terrific opportunity because Doug has historically shown the best of the best, from Warhol to Rauschenberg to Stella, etc. The best part of the experience was was working directly with living artists like Tim Hawkinson, Dennis Hopper, Melanie Pullen, and Matt Hope In a gallery environment, you get a taste of everything: sales, curating, accounting, insurance, shipping, etc. These broad experiences helped me determine where my skills and talents would be most useful in the art world, which is why I chose Communications/Public Relations because it allows me to do my favorite things on a daily basis: write about art and talk about art.

Thus, when the opportunity arose to do Public Relations for MOCA, I seized it. In that capacity I worked with some of the art world’s most brilliant curators—Paul Schimmel, Ann Goldstein, Connie Butler, Alma Ruiz, & Brooke Hodge—as well as iconic artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Carolee Schneeman, Judy Chicago, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Ed Ruscha, Paul McCarthy, Morgan Fisher, and others. It also helped me get my finger on the pulse of the LA art world and allowed me to meet mid-career and emerging artists Lorna Simpson, Alexandra Grant, Karl Haendel, Lecia Dole-Recio, Eric Wesley, etc. MOCA was, and in many ways still is, a family to me and the place where I truly came into my own as an arts publicist and connoisseur of contemporary art.

The Getty was the opportunity-of-a-lifetime, and one I simply couldn’t pass up. Since joining the Communications team here, I have had the opportunity to work on many wonderful exhibitions, including the first major Bernini exhibition in North America. One exhibition that was particularly special to me was the groundbreaking California Video show curated by the brilliant Glenn Phillips. I have always been a huge fan of video as an artistic medium and this exhibition brought that passion into greater focus for me.  Not to mention, the privilege of working with iconic video artists Chip Lord, Doug Hall, Tony Oursler, Harry Dodge & Stanya Kahn, Dale Hoyt, and Brian Bress, among others.

qi peng: With the recent downturn in the American economy, have you seen any changes in how the galleries and museums been able to interact with their audience? Can galleries and museums afford to take a risk in curating riskier exhibitions during this period? If so how?

Rebecca Taylor: More so than the economy, the web has been changing how the world disseminates & obtains information, and now—with the rise of programs like Skype and iChat, not to mention social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook—is changing how we interact with one another. These free sites provide the opportunity for a gallery or institution to be more than a destination but to have a life, and a personality, of their own.

In regards to risk-taking, I would be surprised if museums and galleries toned down their programs, at least in terms of content, because of the current state of the economy. MOCA and the Hammer specialize in edgy, contemporary exhibitions and they’re unlikely to have greater appeal to their target audience if they choose big-name blockbuster exhibitions instead of the more provocative shows. It is more likely though that the scale of the programs might be reduced to accommodate budget cuts.

qi peng: Do you have any advice for up and coming BFA and MFA graduates who are graduating from art school and are starting to hunt for galleries and other art venues to show their artwork? What are some of the challenges and hardships that emerging artists have to face today?

Rebecca Taylor: I am not an artist so I really don’t feel qualified to give advice to those coming out of BFA and MFA programs today, but I do wish them the best of luck.

qi peng: The courses that you have taught as a UCLA extension instructor have included the following: Decoding the Contemporary Art World, The Art World Power Players, Encountering the Whitney Biennial, and Hot Topics: Discussion on Headlines in the Art World. How do you manage to keep your classes hip and appealing while maintaining a serious and intellectual edge to the concepts being presented? What is a typical day of classes at UCLA like during instruction? How does your work at the Getty Trust influence what you impart to the students outside the museum setting? What are the things that you enjoy about teaching about the contemporary art world to others?

Rebecca Taylor: Teaching at UCLA extension came about several years ago now when I was at MOCA, and I must confess that it has brought me more enjoyment than I ever imagined. My courses range in topic and length, but all are centered around the art world and deal with either the major entities, players, events, or topics in contemporary art. I believe it is the amalgamation of my different experiences—in auction houses, museums, and galleries—that has made my courses particularly interesting for the students. The first-hand accounts of putting together a sale, hanging an exhibition, or working with a particular artist really bring the material to life for the class. Also, because of the nature of the content—being always changing and outdated almost as soon as it’s taught—my courses are always fresh and new. My lecture notes never stay the same from one semester to the next because there are new auction records, new exhibitions, new curators, new artists, and new hot topics to discuss. I love that about this field, because it forces me to constantly be on my toes and never allows me to stop reading or learning for a second.

qi peng: Do you have anything else which you would like to share with readers and fans of Getty Trust, your UCLA classes, the Los Angeles art scene, and so on here?

Rebecca Taylor: I feel very privileged that I am able to work in a field that I am this passionate about and hope that all of your readers have that same opportunity, wherever there interests/passions may lie.

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

May 12, 2009 at 1:15 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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