Randy Kennedy has a story in today's Times about the situation at the Detroit Institute. I hope to have more to say about it later, but for now, I was stopped in my tracks by the following quote from AAM president Ford Bell:
"Our tradition in this country is that artworks are held in trust for the public good, and you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say the works are held in trust until we decide they’re an asset, and we need to sell them."
Are you kidding me?
Am I awake?
Isn't that exactly the AAMD/AAM approach to deaccessioning? They say the works are held in trust ... until they decide to sell them.
That Hopper was held in trust ... until PAFA decided to sell it.
Those Rymans, Chamberlains, and De Marias were held in trust ... until Dia decided to sell them.
That $30 million Persian rug was held in trust ... until the Corcoran decided to sell it.
And these are just in the last few months. The list goes on and on. The plain fact is that museums sell work all ... the ... time.
As museum director Hugh Davies has said: "We museum directors can huff and puff about how once we bring these artworks into our collections ... they're held in trust for future generations. It's B.S. We go on and sell them [and use the proceeds to buy more art]." It is, as Gresham Riley has said, simply an exercise in smoke and mirrors.
Bell is exactly right: you can't have it both ways. I've been saying that -- in those exact words -- for years.