Thursday, October 23, 2014

More on my deaccessioning puzzle

Michael Rushton offers up a speculative, tentative, cautious, possible answer to the deaccessioning puzzle I presented last week.

It's basically a "capture" theory -- that, as with all large, complex nonprofit organizations, the general direction of major art museums is determined by their "knowledge workers" (i.e., the curatorial staff), and the deaccession policy that we see is the one they prefer.  Like anything Rushton writes, it's worth thinking about, and I will do so, but in the meantime, let me offer two quick reactions:  (1) I'm not sure it's true.  I've linked before to a number of curator-types who have publicly questioned the wisdom of the standard view on deaccessioning; I've heard many others do the same in private conversations.  And (2) even if true, all this would do is explain where the rule came from; it wouldn't tell us whether we ought to give it any weight.  So curators want more and more art.  Big surprise.  Why is that the end of the discussion?

But more importantly, notice how nuanced ... subtle ... creative Rushton's answer is.  This is in stark contrast to the way the AAMD and its accomplices among the Deaccession Police talk about it.  For them, it's a simple, black and white issue.  There is no puzzle, there is nothing to be explained or defended.  It's a simple matter of "common sense."  It's the "coin of the realm."

In fact, the Deaccession Police don't have an answer at all.  What they do, instead, is pretend the question doesn't exist.