Sunday, January 10, 2021

"The Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York, which last year controversially sold off a prized Jackson Pollock drip painting to shore up funds to diversify its holdings, has announced the first new slate of artworks to enter its collection."

They include works by ceramicist Sharif Bey, multimedia artist Ellen Blalock, and painters Dawn Williams Boyd and Ellen Lesperance. The museum's director says "these works, in particular, speak directly to some of the most pressing issues of our time, including the perpetuation of racist ideologies and violence against people of color, the global impact of climate change, and systemic inequities related to race and gender, among others."

As artnet news notes, the art critic Christopher Knight described the Pollock sale as “inexcusable,” arguing that the museum was “betraying its legacy” by “privatizing” a remarkable and historic painting. See also here and here.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

"France's highest court orders retrial of art-dealing Wildenstein family"

 Story here. Background here,

Pop quiz: Is this repulsive? (UPDATED)

The New York Times had an article yesterday headlined "San Francisco’s Top Art School Says Future Hinges on a Diego Rivera Mural."

Apparently, the San Francisco Art Institute "was close to losing its campus and art collection to a public sale last fall, when the University of California Board of Regents stepped in to buy its $19.7 million of debt from a private bank, in an attempt to save the 150-year-old institution from collapse," but, despite that, "years of costly expansions and declining enrollment at the institute have put it in peril, a situation that has worsened during the pandemic."

As a result, the institute is considering a sale of "a mural worth $50 million by Diego Rivera that officials say could help balance the budget." According to the Times, "the school has stressed that no final decision has been made to sell the mural. But behind the scenes, administrators and the institute's leaders are strongly pushing to do so, as it would pay off debts and allow them to make ends meet for an annual operating budget that typically runs around $19 million. (The board chairwoman, Pam Rorke Levy, disputed that, saying, 'Our first choice would be to endow the mural in place, attracting patrons or a partner institution that would create a substantial fund that would enable us to preserve, protect and present the mural to the public.')"

My question is: if they do decide that the only way to remain viable is to sell the mural ... would that be repulsive? Would it be unethical?

Would it change your answer if the buyer was "the filmmaker George Lucas [who] was interested in buying the mural for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles," thus satisfying the Ellis Rule?

The Deaccession Police will say the institute should just go shake the Magic Money Tree, but if you read the article you'll see that's not so easy.

UPDATE: SFAI MFA graduate (and conceptual law professor and Deaccessioning Hall of Fame Scholar-in-Residence) Brian Frye tweets: "I think the obvious answer is that the school should absolutely sell the mural. But it should also focus on reforming its board & management. Their incompetence is truly shocking."

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

"The provisions tightening scrutiny of the antiquities market were contained within the sprawling National Defense Authorization Act, which Mr. Trump vetoed last week and which the House and Senate voted to override"

The New York Times:  Congress Poised to Apply Banking Regulations to Antiquities Market.

Nutshell summary: "Exactly how the new law works will be determined over the next year by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a bureau within the Treasury Department, in consultation with the private sector, law enforcement and the public. Legal experts expect that the new antiquities regulations will be similar to others governing the precious metal and jewelry industries, where certain transactions are flagged to the authorities, who then determine whether they are suspicious. The law also seeks to end the use of shell companies to conceal the identities of buyers and sellers."

The usual good analysis from Nicholas O'Donnell here. (Nutshell summary: "Short version? It does less than it seems and probably isn't worth the cost, but it's a sign that change is coming and the market needs to get involved.")