Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"As one of my former Corcoran colleagues said about the two case studies, ‘The Corcoran is dead. Delaware lives.'"

The Washington Post's Peggy McGlone had a story last week on the demise of the Corcoran Gallery: Homeless art, lost jobs and low enrollment: Two years later, Corcoran's breakup still stings.

Two years ago, when this was all going down, I asked:  Did the Deaccession Police Kill the Corcoran?

It seems that's exactly what ended up happening, as Tim Schneider explains:

"I'm chiefly appalled by how the US's economically ludicrous museum standards factored in. Whether their fear was authentic or simply a smoke screen for what sounds suspiciously like an inside job, the trustees reportedly opted for this plan partly because they knew they could not sell any of the Corcoran's assets to raise money for operating expenses without being institutionally waterboarded by both the [AAM] and (although McGlone doesn't mention it) the [AAMD]. For the uninitiated, the sacred standards of these organizations decree that museum holdings can only be placed on the market to fund new acquisitions, not grubby terrestrial line items like, you know, staying solvent. Case in point: The AAM excommunicated the Delaware Art Museum in 2014 for selling select works from its collection to pay construction debts on a major architectural expansion, while the AAMD imposed major sanctions for the same supposed offense. But as Delaware's chief executive points out to McGlone, the DAM survived its exile and is now thriving. The Corcoran, on the other hand, effectively reduced itself to a zombie institution willingly serving up its limbs to scavengers. All of which underscores the American nonprofit sector's illogical orthodoxy on de-accessioning: Preserving the supposed sanctity of a museum's collection is meaningless if the institution has to die for the cause. And if you ask me, it's far more barbaric to give the public an honor killing than a museum where art and business are allowed to sensibly mix."

Well said.  And speaking of Schneider, he, and friend of the blog Brian Frye, will be taking part in a panel discussion tomorrow night at WhiteBox in New York on the intersection between art, technology, and business.