Carol Vogel's Inside Art column today reports that "when the big November auction catalogs begin arriving in the mail next month, they will include the usual array of art being sold by museums."
The Brooklyn Museum is selling one of Yves Klein's "classic painted sponges on board." Aparently that work, although under the aegis of a museum, is not held in the public trust, to be accessible to present and future generations. Future generations are on their own when it comes to that work. Maybe there is a painted sponges on board exception to the "held in trust" rule.
The work was a 1992 bequest to the museum from William K. Jacobs Jr. But, obviously, no one is going to look at this sale and say, "Why should I give this to you? What guarantee do I have that you're not going to sell this tomorrow?"
The Hirshhorn is selling a Picasso musketeer painting. That too must be a work that is somehow not held in the public trust, to be accessible to present and future generations. Perhaps a musketeer exception. And, again, no one is going to say, Why should I give this to you if there is no guarantee that you're not going to sell it?
Kelly Crow had a similar story in the Wall Street Journal, pointing out that "some of the biggest sellers in the upcoming fall auctions in New York are museums."
The Cleveland Museum of Art is selling a Monet that it received as a gift in 1947. Gee, you'd think that, seeing this, someone considering making a gift to the museum in the future might say, "Why should I give this to you? What guarantee do I have that you're not going to sell this tomorrow?" But I guess that's not a legitimate concern. And future generations in and around Cleveland will have to find other Monets to look at. What do you think this is, a public trust or something?
Finally, the Virginia Museum of Art is selling a Renoir still life that it received as a gift in 1994. Come on, that's almost 20 years. That's almost a full generation. What do you people want? Where did you ever get the idea that museums had some kind of obligation to hold onto works so they can be accessible to present and future generations? Who ever suggested that potential donors will be discouraged from giving without a guarantee that the museum won't sell?
Stop being so touchy. It's no big deal when museums sell work.