Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tell me again about the public trust (secret Picasso edition)

Also while I was away, I see American museums continue to do a bang-up job of making sure important works from their collections will be accessible to present and future generations.  The latest example is the Evansville Museum, which recently discovered, after 50 years, that a work that had been given to it was a Picasso ... and promptly decided that the best reaction to this happy discovery was to sell the work.

That must be sub-clause (iii) of rule (a) of section 17 of the Held In The Public Trust Rules (copies available upon request from the AAMD).  That sub-clause states that if a museum discovers that a work is more valuable than it had previously believed, then that work is no longer Held In The Public Trust to be accessible to present and future generations.  Makes perfect sense, if you think about it.

It's also interesting that this may be a real-life example of a Schrodinger's Deaccessioning.  The museum says it "will make no immediate decisions about utilizing funds from a successful sale."  That may be why the Deaccession Police haven't pounced (it may also be that it's August).  They don't know yet whether to be repulsed or not.  If the museum decided to use the proceeds for anything other than buying more art, there will be hell to pay.  But if they decide to buy more art, well, that's a perfectly normal act, to be encouraged.  It's all right there, in the rulebook.