Friday, December 05, 2008

"We had a choice of selling or becoming part of the dustbin of history" (UPDATED)

It seems the National Academy Museum in New York recently sold two important paintings. Lee Rosenbaum is on the(ir) case. (Like you needed me to tell you that.) She posts a statement from the Association of Art Museum Directors condemning the sale here.

Lee reports that the works were sold to an unnamed private foundation, though "speculation has centered on the Crystal Bridges Museum." Proceeds will "be applied to programs, operations, fundraising initiatives and gallery improvements." The museum's interim director says that two other works may also be sold, and that the the total proceeds are expected to be "around $15 million" ("most" of that coming from the two works already sold).

At the end of her post, Lee gets around to mentioning the following:

"The National Academy is an honorary association of artists ... who are responsible for its governance. The artist/members voted 181 to 1 ... in favor of selling the works. An alternative that was considered but rejected was selling the Academy's swank Fifth Avenue mansion and moving to less pricey quarters."

So let me get this straight. The museum runs a "chronic operating deficit." Its $10-million endowment is "restricted to specific purposes and cannot be used for general operating funds." Its artist board members voted 181 to 1 in favor of the sale. The purchase agreement "stipulated that the paintings were to be hung publicly." There's a good chance they'll end up on view at the Crystal Bridges Museum.

And we're supposed to be outraged by this . . . why?

UPDATE: More from Randy Kennedy on page one of Saturday's New York Times arts section:

"Carmine Branagan, the academy’s interim director, said the sale ... was made after long and careful consideration by the institution’s membership, which includes famous American artists and architects like Jasper John, Wayne Thiebaud and Frank Gehry. Ms. Branagan said the academy’s members viewed the sale as the only way for the 183-year-old National Academy ... to survive and to exhibit more actively one of the country’s largest collections of American art. ... If not for the sale, she said, 'the academy would close — and that is an honest and sincere statement.'"