Monday, March 21, 2016


The NYT's Randy Kennedy reported last week that the National Academy -- "the nation’s oldest continuously operating artists’ society" -- is selling its Fifth Avenue home and moving to ... no one knows where.

As far as I can see, this has been greeted mostly by crickets.  Lee Rosenbaum has been attempting to work up some outrage, but so far no one seems to be following her lead.  Maybe it's out there but I missed it.

Compare that to the apoplectic reaction several years ago when the museum sold two of the more than 7,000 works in its collection, with the same goal in mind:  to give itself "the financial freedom to think more creatively about how to exist in the 21st century."

Why is the one sale not a big deal and the other the end of the world as we know it?

Are the buildings not "held in the public trust" to exactly the same extent as the artworks?

How do some assets come to be held in the public trust and others not?  What is the mechanism?

It's almost as if the notion that the works are held in the public trust is a convenient fiction.