Thursday, March 19, 2015

While I'm out here highly recommending things ...

... let me also direct your attention to the third volume in the Handbook for Academic Museums series, which includes a phenomenal essay by Peter Dean and Bradley Bateman on the Randolph College deaccessioning controversy.  I hope to say more about the essay at some point, but for now, this will give you the flavor:

"Sometimes the AAMD has justified its 'ethical' stance against the use of sale proceeds for purposes other than acquiring new items by claiming that such use of proceeds might make donors less willing to donate a work of art, or contribute toward the purchase of a specific work of art, on the grounds that such use would devalue their original philanthropy. This is also an inconsistent argument. The AAMD evidently has no problem with the sale of a work of art, whether donated or purchased with a donor’s funds (unless the work was accepted subject to an express condition prohibiting sale). It has no edict against the sale of any individual piece of art; its rules are restricted to the use of proceeds .... If a donor bequeaths a Picasso to a museum which later sells the painting in order to purchase a Damien Hirst sculpture, the AAMD assumes that the donor (or other future donors) will not be upset and that this will have no effect on future philanthropy. But if the museum sells the Picasso to help build a new wing to house a collection of contemporary art, then the AAMD believes that this creates a risk that the donor (or other future donors) will abandon their philanthropy to art museums. Where is the evidence for this distinction?"