With the sales announced this week of works by Cindy Sherman and Edward Hopper, this bears repeating.
In 2009, Ford Bell, the President of the AAM, wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times, defending "those in the art world who object to the sale of parts of a museum’s collection to pay operating expenses." "The essential point of museum collections," he explained, is that "once an object falls under the aegis of a museum, it is held in the public trust, to be accessible to present and future generations."
You see? Once "an object" becomes part of a museum collection, "it" -- that object -- is "held in the public trust" for "future generations."
Now, if you really believe that, then these sales -- the Sherman and the Hopper -- cannot be okay. They just can't. Those works were being held in the public trust for future generations.
But if it's okay to sell these works, then don't talk to me about the public trust and future generations when some financially desperate museum sells a work or two to keep from having to close it doors. How can I put this delicately? I. Don't. Want. To. Hear. It.
The defenders of the standard view on deaccessioning (sales to buy more art, perfectly fine; sales for any other reason, repulsive) need to come up with a better rationale.