The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts is selling one of its two "signature oil paintings" by Edward Hopper. Hey, what do you need two signature oil paintings for? Isn't one enough?
Since the proceeds will go into "a fund largely for acquisition of contemporary art," it's all good. The signature oil painting is not held in the public trust. Future generations can fend for themselves. Potential donors will not say, "Why should I give this to you? What guarantee do I have that you're not going to sell this tomorrow?" Don't be so touchy.
The Philadelphia Inquirer's Stephan Salisbury asks a good question: "Why not seek donors to seed the new acquisition fund instead of selling?"
The museum director's answer: "We have extensive capital needs for our buildings. ... We have to harbor our resources."
This points up another way in which the Standard View on deaccessioning is completely incoherent. If you use the money to buy more art, this view holds, that's perfectly fine; if you use the money for any other reason, up to and including keeping from going out of business, that's repulsive, Stalinesque, etc. etc. But money is fungible. Suppose the academy needs $10 million for capital needs and $10 million for acquisitions. And suppose they can raise $10 million from donors. They can say they're using that $10 million for the capital needs and so the proceeds from the sale of the Hopper will go to acquisitions. But we could just as easily say the $10 million from the donors went to the acquisition fund and the Hopper proceeds are being used for the capital needs. It's all just a semantic game. Why anyone takes it seriously is beyond me.