Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Monday, November 20, 2017

Are works owned by public libraries held in the public trust?

If not, why not?

The New York Times reports on a library in Jamestown, N.Y. that "says it needs to sell most of the 50-odd works in its collection to make ends meet, an especially formidable task, it said, since the city has slashed its budget over the last few years."

One interesting twist in the case: a couple of "art patrons" had "proposed keeping the collection in Jamestown by buying about 40 of the works for $1.2 million and finding a new home for them in the city" -- but the Attorney General turned them down!  The AG "objected to a private sale without testing whether the paintings might actually bring in more if sold through public auction."

Saturday, November 18, 2017

"There's no easy answer."

I found another member for my Deaccessioning Hall of Fame: Lynn Zelevansky, who recently stepped down as director of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh (not, I don't think, because of her views on deaccessioning).  From an interview with Charlotte Burns of Art Agency, Partners:

"What about the question of using funds for operating expenses?

"That’s much harder to answer. It has traditionally been met with a resounding no from the field and organizations that set its standards, such as the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors.

"The worry is that a board might sell works from the collection as an easy way of paying outstanding bills. I remember a friend remarking when LA Moca went through its financial crisis that the institution—which is so deep in art by Rothko and Rauschenberg—could have sold a minor work by each artist without compromising the collection and solved its economic problems. But that’s not something you would want to happen without oversight. What would it involve? And what power would the overseers have to enforce their judgments? There’s no easy answer.

"I once stood up at an AAMD meeting and asked if there was some way we could imagine doing this in extreme and worthy situations, and the membership practically threw rotten tomatoes at me, so that was that."

That's basically the position of what Felix Salmon calls the anti-anti-deaccessioning crowd:  There's no easy answer.  Maybe there's a way to do it in extreme and worthy situations.  Or, as the trial court judge put it in his recent decision in the Berkshire Museum case, every proposed deacesssion must be examined on its own merits.

Against this extreme position of there are no easy answers and considering each case on its own merits, the anti-anti-anti-deaccessioning crowd throws rotten tomatoes.  (In fairness, it generally works for them.)

Photos Stolen From PS1

Or were they just borrowed?  Definitely a weird one.

Trinity Church VARA Suit Dismissed

The VARA lawsuit over the removal of a sculpture from Trinity Church in Manhattan has been dismissed. Story here.  Decision here.  I said when the case was filed that VARA claims relating to the removal of site-specific work have not fared well.  Add this one to the list:  the Court says "simply relocating The Trinity Root does not by itself constitute distortion, mutilation or modification under VARA."

In this case, the artist had the additional difficulty that he signed a contact transferring to the Church "all right, title, and interest to the Sculpture ..., including but not limited to the copyright therein, ... in perpetuity throughout the universe, for use in any manner ....  In the event of any termination of this Agreement, Trinity will own the Sculpture, in whatever degree of completion ..., and Trinity will have the right to complete, exhibit and sell the Sculpture if it so chooses. ... [The artist] understands that Trinity has not promised the public exhibition of the Sculpture, and that Trinity may loan the Sculpture to third parties as Trinity deems appropriate" (emphasis in the original).

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Tyler Cowen on the Berkshire Museum (UPDATED 2X)

Sell the Rockwells.  It's Just Business.

UPDATE:  More from Cowen here.

UPDATE 2:  Another thoughtful critic of the Deaccession Police, Brian Frye, was on Bloomberg Radio talking about the latest developments.

Friday, November 10, 2017

BREAKING: Appeals Court Enjoins Berkshire Museum Sale

Art Newspaper story here, including that "the injunction expires on December 11, but the judge has given the AGO the option to extend the injunction until its investigation into the deaccessioning can be completed."  I guess the appellate court wasn't as impressed with Judge Agostini's decision as I was.