Thursday, February 22, 2007

Albright-Knox Knews (UPDATED)

The Buffalo News has the latest on the Albright-Knox deaccessioning. The Buffalo Art Keepers group is planning "to file a petition in State Supreme Court early next week to force the gallery to stop the sale .... Richard Stanton, the lawyer representing Buffalo Art Keepers, said he will ask the court to review the gallery's decision and what he called a break from its mission statement and collections-management policy. ... Stanton said the Art Keepers' case is based on a state law that requires state approval of major changes in a nonprofit institution's mission statement. He said the decision to sell the works constitutes a major change in the gallery's mission." Seems like a stretch to me, but I guess we'll find out soon enough.

More from Lee Rosenbaum here.

Meanwhile, in a piece entitled "The War Against the Albright-Knox," filmmaker and SUNY Buffalo professor Bruce Jackson lets Tom Freudenheim and the Art Keepers have it, with both barrels. Some samples:

"The mission of the Albright-Knox is not now, was not 50 years ago ..., and never has been 'providing access to all kinds of high-quality art.' ... The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is dedicated to modern and contemporary art. It always has been. It has on occasion acquired, through gifts and more rarely through purchase, other material, but that hasn’t altered its consistent focus on modern and contemporary art. Making up stories about other missions doesn’t change the reality of that. Tom Freudenheim is claiming a role for the Albright-Knox it never had, then faulting the gallery for failing to fulfill the nonexistent role he made up for it."


"So far as I can tell, the war started by Tom Freudenheim and carried on by [the Art Keepers] is a lot of sound and fury over nothing. With a few exceptions, the objects being deaccessioned have been rarely displayed; some have never been displayed at all. The Albright-Knox has never had a major exhibit of any of them and it has never hired a curator to deal with them or further develop their areas. They have always been seen as peripheral to the gallery’s mission. Selling off pieces of the collection for operating expenses is strongly disapproved of by the Association of Art Museum Directors; selling for acquisition funds is done all the time. Museums get rid of duplicates, they get rid of pieces that aren’t very good and they get rid of pieces that may be very good which are part of their collections but which they’re willing to sell because the money will let them do lots of things central to their mission. ... So the questions for Carl Dennis are, 'Other than you having discovered something that museums do all the time, and which the Albright-Knox itself has done in the past, what’s new? Why kvell?'"


"All these letters have been written, meetings taken and meetings planned, lawyers hired. Now what? The gallery’s board has the sole legal authority to decide what to buy, what to keep, what to sell, what to build and whom to hire. The vote of the membership Dennis is working so hard to organize is meaningless, and the threatened lawsuit he and a few other people are funding seems equally pointless. How likely is it a judge will block a sale undertaken within the terms of the organization’s charter, undertaken after consultation with top professionals in the field and vetted in advance by New York’s attorney general?"

UPDATE: Derek Fincham agrees that it will be "extremely difficult" for the Art Keepers to prevent the sale.