Friday, July 18, 2014

Wring Wring

Had a chance to read the D.C. Attorney General's brief in support of the Corcoran's cy pres request.  You can read it here.  I'll be very surprised if the relief isn't granted, but two things in particular jumped out at me as interesting.

The first is how heavily the AG leans on the deaccessioning taboo to support his position.  One of the arguments the Save the Corcoran folks make is that the museum doesn't have to close, it can sell some art to raise the money it needs to stay alive.  Oh, says the AG, if only that were possible:  unfortunately, doing so "would likely result in a loss of accreditation, and would dramatically undermine the Corcoran's reputation within the museum field."  We saw the same thing with the Barnes Foundation; they could have sold a very small number of works and raised the cash they needed to stay put.  But the big bad Deaccession Police, with their non-nuanced black and white view of deaccessioning, and their sanctions, always with their sanctions, made that impossible.

The other thing worth mentioning again -- and this is another point of similarity with the Barnes, where the entire collection remains intact and hung exactly as it was in the original location, only in a spiffy new building five miles away that's more accessible to a greater number of people -- is that you have to work pretty hard to find something seriously objectionable about the ultimate outcome here.  What will happen if we don't "save the Corcoran"?  According to the AG, the following:

"Although the proposed transactions will disburse the Corcoran's art collection to multiple museums and institutions in D.C., ... the art will remain in D.C. and accessible to the public.  Moreover, public access to Corcoran artworks should actually increase under the proposed transactions.  The art will  now be exhibited at the National Gallery, at [the Corcoran's] 17th Street building under the 'Corcoran Contemporary' name, and at other museums and institutions in D.C., which should increase the amount of Corcoran art being exhibited at any given time.  Moreover, the public will have free access to the Corcoran's art at the National Gallery and other museums and institutions ...."

In addition, the 17th Street building will continue always to exhibit work.  "This term was a necessary condition of the District's support of the Corcoran's proposed transactions, as it ensures that the 17th Street building will continue to be a 'Public Gallery and Museum' in D.C."  The building will also continue to house the Corcoran School, which will now become part of George Washington University and be known as the "GW Corcoran School."

The hand wringers will wring, because that's what they do.  But no one should really be losing any sleep over this.