Monday, July 09, 2007

You say "ransom," I say "a more comfortable distribution of resources"

Carol Vogel's latest Inside Art column reported that the Metropolitan Museum was the buyer -- for $3.18 million, or more than 12 times Sotheby's high estimate -- of one of the antiquities recently deaccessioned by the Albright-Knox.

Lee Rosenbaum finds it "distressing that such a heavy ransom must be exacted from a public institution to rescue what should never have left the public domain in the first place." But why not, instead, see it as the kind of mutually advantageous trade between public institutions that we ought to encourage more of (Fisk-O'Keeffe is another example that comes immediately to mind)? As Adrian Ellis put it in a piece on deaccessioning a couple years ago:

"One approach that respects the intentions underpinning the current position on de-accessioning whilst allowing for a more balanced allocation of resources might be for the museum community to see itself more as just that – a community – and allow for a more comfortable distribution of resources between cash poor asset rich institutions and asset poor cash rich ones, allowing them to trade to mutual advantage."

The piece went on view in the Met’s Ancient Near-Eastern galleries on Friday.