Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I think there was a lot of confusion out there today about the news that the New York State Board of Regents is going to let its "emergency" deaccessioning regulations expire. The New York Times headline was "Board of Regents Ending Injunction Against Museums' Art Sales." It called the move a "surprise development in the battle over whether museums should be allowed to sell art to cover operating costs." The Wall Street Journal's headline was "Museums Can Sell Off Art Again" and its lead was: "The state will allow emergency regulations that prohibited cash-strapped museums from selling their artworks to cover expenses to expire" -- clearly implying that now cash-strapped museums can sell art "to cover expenses." reported that the Regents made the "surprise decision" to let the rules "prohibiting the practice" of "sell[ing] art to cover operating expenses" -- "long considered sacrosanct" -- expire. And Assemblyman Brodsky -- of the defunct Brodsky Bill -- was quoted as saying "this is the precursor of the massive transfer of art held in the public trust into private hands."

I think they have it all wrong. The expiration of the emergency regulations just means that we go back to the existing, non-emergency regulations, which also prohibit the sale of art to cover operating expenses. The existing rules -- which apply to all museums chartered after 1889 -- essentially make the AAMD/AAM deaccessioning rules the law of New York State. The emergency regulations were even stricter, but if you're okay with the AAMD rule, you should be fine with the current regulations. Museums still won't be able to use sales proceeds for operating expenses. The Deaccession Police can rest easy.