Friday, January 12, 2018

"This happens from time to time when a minor museum can’t fix the roof or keep the heat on, and the moral outrage machine goes into high gear, wailing that the sold works will be 'lost' to humanity forever!"

A very good day for sanity in the deaccessioning debate.

First, MoMA's Glenn Lowry joined me -- and Felix Salmon -- in the anti-anti-deaccessioning crowd.

And now, this great piece by Berkeley's Michael O'Hare in the San Francisco Chronicle. He starts off talking about the hysteria around the proposed Berkshire Museum sale, and says:

"Let’s get a grip. Selling major works to save a museum, or revise its overall mission, is rare, and not a matter of art getting 'lost'; they go to museums that want to show them, or to wealthy collectors who take good care of them, show them privately and almost always bequeath or give them — to museums."

He then pivots to another issue that's in the air these days -- museums charging admission fees:

"I have estimated ... the monetary value of the collection of one of my favorite museums, the Art Institute of Chicago: It’s about $35 billion. Absurd to think the institute would just sell the collection, or sell any of its best works, but what about all that stuff in the basement that has no prospect of ever being displayed? Well, if the institute sold 1 percent off the bottom ... the institute could endow free admission forever (currently general admission is $25; $20 for Chicago residents)."  (Along these lines:  9 Works the Met Should Sell Right Now to Avoid Charging Tourists Forever.)

Most museums, he points out, "have warehouses of art that are not creating any cultural value now and could be sold, especially to regional museums and collectors who would show it. They could free up funds for more space to show what they have, and more curators and educators to amplify the value of the visitors’ experience."  Or, as Lowry put it, "more programs that engage more people across a broader platform."

I know, really scandalous, repulsive, unethical stuff, right?

For more by O'Hare, see here, here (where he pointed out that "the Met has a collection worth at least $60 billion, thousands and thousands of objects almost none of which (by object count or square feet of picture) is ever shown or ever will be.  ... Selling just two percent ..., for example, could endow free admission forever"), here, here, and here.