Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Artnet's Paul Jeromack mentions two "recent museum deaccessions" included in Christie's latest Old Master sale -- one sold by the Met at Sotheby’s in 2006 for $632,000 (the buyer just resold it for $722,500), and the other, "a masterpiece of Anglo-American neoclassicism and very much unlike most pictures by West in American collections," sold by the Corcoran for a "bargain" price of $458,500.

We're often told that the reason for the strict rules against deaccessioning (what Felix Salmon has dubbed the "prissy fatwa," and which recently got the National Academy into so much trouble and, apparently, led Brandeis University to close its museum just to get around) is that works of art are held by museums "in trust" for the public (see, among many examples, here and here).

My question is: When did these two works get released from trust? Is there some sort of waiver process? Is there a magic spell that AAMD members can recite over the works to release them from the bonds of in-trust-ness?

Are they held "in trust" or not?