Friday, December 11, 2009

"The institution anticipates that it will not be able to resume these or any other payments with respect to the bonds for the foreseeable future"

The American Folk Art Museum seems to be having some financial problems.

Some would say that some would say that the museum should just sell a couple of Henry Dargers to take care of the problem.

But what I would say, first, is: Why does it have to be a couple of Dargers? We keep being told that museums have mountains of stuff in their basements, just taking up space. Why is it completely off limits to even consider selling any of that "stuff"? Museums routinely cull through their collections to identify the less essential items they can sell to raise money to buy more art (without controversy). Why is it out of bounds to wonder about the sale of those very same items (presumably not Dargers) to help a museum in financial distress?

And second, as a last resort, if it meant the difference between the museum continuing to operate or going out of business (or, perhaps, being "stolen" by the evil museum-thieves in Philadelphia), would it really be wrong to think about selling even a couple of Dargers? Apparently the museum owns all four of the unpublished manuscripts that were discovered at Darger's death ("comprising more than thirty thousand pages of text"), "approximately three thousand items from Darger's archive of ephemera and source material," and "more than two dozen paintings." If the museum ends up owning the manuscripts and archive but, say, 22 paintings instead of 25 -- if that's what it takes to keep it alive (and out of Philadelphia) -- is that such a terrible outcome? Or is it better to let them fail?

It's hard to tell from these initial reports just how serious the museum's problems are, nor do we know how far the sale of any of the art (of the Darger or non-Darger variety) would go towards solving those problems. But the attempt to preemptively rule out certain possible solutions strikes me as unwarranted.