Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Please, sir, may I have another?

I've been distracted the last couple of days by some important -- though, as it turned out, utterly depressing -- business up in the Bronx. So I'm late getting to the news that the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad (not to mention repulsive and Stalinist) National Academy Museum, having been duly punished, and having publicly repented for its sins ("Never again," says the museum's director), has had the sanctions against it lifted by the AAMD. "On Oct. 4 the [AAMD's] board voted unanimously to suspend its sanctions in recognition of the academy’s actions over the last 20 months toward better financial planning and management."

Its horrible sin, you may recall, was selling a couple of works (they still have 7,000 others!), to keep from having to close its doors. The scoundrels!

This was a horrible sin because, although it may seem that museums own the works of art in their collections, the works are actually "held in trust" for the public and so cannot be sold under any circumstances. Never never never. Unless of course the museum wants to use the proceeds to acquire other, different works of art, or even just put them in an account labeled Acquisition Fund and let them sit there, in which case the discarded works are somehow no longer held in the public trust -- go mind your own damn business, public! -- and can be freely sold. It's a funny kind of public trust, you see. Don't ask so many questions. Move along or we will sanction you.

Judith Dobrzynski thinks the outcome is "fair," but reiterates her (repulsive Stalinist) view that "there ought to be a process through which museums in true danger of closing, which have exhausted all other possibilities, might petition a state attorney general or an AAMD-sanctioned arbiter or some other adjudicator for permission to deaccession some works to raise money to remain open." The Art Market Monitor notes the New York Times's "odd obsession with the State legislature’s attempts to make law out of the [AAMD's] sanctions against selling works for operating expenses," and says the National Academy "is now only on double secret probation."