Monday, February 26, 2007

Deaccessioning News

The Buffalo News has come out in favor of the Albright-Knox sale:

"The bottom line is this: The Albright-Knox Art Gallery has a worldwide reputation for its collection of modern art, and it can either polish that reputation or stagnate and watch its luster fade and its international visitor drawing power erode. Polishing requires money, and the gallery board has decided rightly to focus on its core mission of exhibiting, preserving and collecting modern and contemporary art - and to find the money for that by auctioning off parts of the collection that don't tightly fit the core mission."

Meanwhile, the Tennessean has a couple of stories on the Fisk University sale. One points out that "in the past year, a handful of small colleges around the country have found themselves contemplating a similar step." It mentions Rockford College in Illinois (which decided in September to sell almost 70 percent of its collection, and has so far taken in $1.1 million), Hartwick College in New York (which ultimately decided against the sale), and, of course, Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson University, which recently sold a Thomas Eakins masterpiece for $68 million.

The other story suggests that the O'Keeffe Museum is getting a serious bargain in acquiring the O'Keeffe painting for $7 million. Jock Reynolds, director of the Yale University Art Gallery, is quoted as saying the painting "would surely sell for at least $20 million ..., and quite frankly the sky is the limit on this picture."

Of course, since the sale is part of a settlement of a lawsuit (really it is the settlement), it makes sense that the museum would get some discount. Apparently Reynolds doesn't see it that way, though:

"The agents acting on behalf of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum are asking Fisk to settle for a paltry $7 million for this great painting, forcing a settlement through legal actions and negotiations that I and others in the art world regard as coercive 'green-mail.' If the trustees and wealthy patrons standing behind the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum really care about Fisk University, the Stieglitz Collection and the citizens of Nashville, let them demonstrate their integrity and courage by bidding for the [painting] in fair open-market competition with other individual collectors and museums. To do otherwise will disgrace the legacy of Georgia O'Keeffe."

Putting aside the fact that that would have amounted to a total capitulation by the museum in the lawsuit (because the posture of the suit was that all Fisk wanted was to put the paintings on the market, and what the museum was trying to do was prevent that from happening), what do you think the reaction would have been if Fisk had sold the painting to an "individual collector" to hang on his living room wall?