Tuesday, October 08, 2013

And furthermore

I've been busy with the day job, but, before moving on to catch up on some of the other big art law stories over the last few days, the additional points I wanted to make about last week's big New York Times story on Detroit are:

1.  The story says that, in contrast to any proposed sale here, "museums regularly sell minor artworks in a curatorial culling process, using the proceeds to acquire other pieces."

That's not true at all.  The Hopper the Pennsylvania Academy is selling is not a minor work.  The Yves Klein the Brooklyn Museum sold last year is not a minor work.  The Cindy Sherman the Akron Museum sold last year is not a minor work.

It's misleading to suggest that the distinction is between sales of major works, on the one hand, and sales of minor works in a curatorial culling process, on the other.  Let's at least be honest about what's going on.  It would be more honest to say "museums regularly sell any damn works they please and they call it 'ethical' so long as the proceeds are used to buy more art."

The difference isn't in the quality of the works sold.  The difference is solely in the use of proceeds, and there is one use of proceeds -- to buy more and more art -- that the museum world wants to privilege above all others and then use smoke and mirrors to avoid having to ever actually explain why that use of proceeds is the only legitimate one.

2.  We again hear that a sale of "even a portion" of the collection would "cause an immediate withdrawal of the tax revenue that was voted into being last year by three Michigan counties."  But, as I've pointed out, that's not an unavoidable feature of that tax.  It would just be a punitive measure imposed by the surrounding counties, a form of blackmail.  They could just as easily leave the tax in place.