Stephen Garrett, the first director of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu following the passing of its billionaire patron, J. Paul Getty, died on December 2 at age 96. A cause of death was not immediately provided by the museum, which confirmed the news.
During the construction of the Getty Villa, which first opened in 1974 and houses Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities, Garrett served as its consultant architect. He was subsequently named deputy director of the museum and, at the time of Getty’s death in 1976, he was appointed director. He helmed the Getty until 1984, when he became director of the Long Beach Museum of Art in California. Later, he played a significant role in the completion and opening of the Hammer Museum in L.A., serving as its inaugural director during its tumultuous beginnings.
Born in Ashtead, England in 1922, Garrett earned a degree in architecture from Cambridge University in 1950. Before graduating, however, he served in the British Royal Navy during World War II. Early in his career, he had a private practice as an architect in London, and he was a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Garrett also taught at the Inchbald School of Design in the British capital.
In a statement, Garrett’s daughter Rebecca wrote that her father “seemed forever youthful,” adding that “he was a bon vivant, a great lover of life, and travelled more globally in his 70s, 80s and 90s than in the previous six decades.”
“He will be remembered for his generosity of spirit, sharp wit, and infectious laugh,” the statement said.
Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, said in a statement that Garrett “will always have an important place in the Getty’s history and will be much missed by all who knew him and remember so well his expansive personality and wonderful sense of humor.”
Garrett is survived by four children and his longtime partner, Phyllis Nugent.