Saturday, November 18, 2017

"There's no easy answer."

I found another member for my Deaccessioning Hall of Fame: Lynn Zelevansky, who recently stepped down as director of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh (not, I don't think, because of her views on deaccessioning).  From an interview with Charlotte Burns of Art Agency, Partners:

"What about the question of using funds for operating expenses?

"That’s much harder to answer. It has traditionally been met with a resounding no from the field and organizations that set its standards, such as the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors.

"The worry is that a board might sell works from the collection as an easy way of paying outstanding bills. I remember a friend remarking when LA Moca went through its financial crisis that the institution—which is so deep in art by Rothko and Rauschenberg—could have sold a minor work by each artist without compromising the collection and solved its economic problems. But that’s not something you would want to happen without oversight. What would it involve? And what power would the overseers have to enforce their judgments? There’s no easy answer.

"I once stood up at an AAMD meeting and asked if there was some way we could imagine doing this in extreme and worthy situations, and the membership practically threw rotten tomatoes at me, so that was that."

That's basically the position of what Felix Salmon calls the anti-anti-deaccessioning crowd:  There's no easy answer.  Maybe there's a way to do it in extreme and worthy situations.  Or, as the trial court judge put it in his recent decision in the Berkshire Museum case, every proposed deacesssion must be examined on its own merits.

Against this extreme position of there are no easy answers and considering each case on its own merits, the anti-anti-anti-deaccessioning crowd throws rotten tomatoes.  (In fairness, it generally works for them.)