Friday, February 08, 2013

"How do you adhere to a donor’s wishes when they seem to interfere with the best interests of the institution?"

Patricia Cohen had a piece in the Times a few days ago on how museums are starting to notice that the issue of donor intent isn't always so simple.

The unspoken backdrop is that the Donor Intent Police are, as I've said before, generally just the Deaccession Police in disguise.  When there's a sale they don't like, they use any weapon to hand, and sometimes that means appealing to donor intent (which they always interpret in the most literal way possible).  They pretend to care about donor intent, but what they really mean is stop the sale.  But now that the Brooklyn Museum wants to sell off some works no one cares about (works which are "not of museum quality, were misattributed or, in a few cases, were fakes"), suddenly we start hearing that hey, you know, this is a very complicated issue, forever is a long time.  Interesting.