Monday, April 30, 2018

More on the Utterly Noncontroversial Baltimore Museum Deaccessioning

Artnet's Julia Halperin has more on the Baltimore Museum's decision to sell works by Warhol, Rauschenberg, "and other 20th-century titans" in order to "fund future acquisitions of cutting-edge contemporary art, specifically by women and artists of color."

I haven't seen any criticism of the move at all -- and indeed Halperin's piece fails to cite any actual opposition.

We here in the anti-anti-deaccessioning crowd see it as standing for the following very sensible proposition:

It's okay to deaccession when you have a good reason to do so.

In this case the good reason is to diversify the collection.  But there can be other good reasons; buying more art is not the only conceivable good reason across all cases.

So can we please stop talking about an imaginary "public trust" that doesn't exist?  Clearly the works Baltimore is selling are not now and never have been held in the public trust.  They're just owned by the museum, and it's free to do with them whatever it thinks best.

And can we please stop pretending to (selectively) worry about hypothetical future donors who will be scared off from donating to museums if they understand their works can be sold?

All that matters is whether there is a good reason for the sale, whether, on balance, given all the relevant circumstances, the benefits outweigh the costs.  No more "ethics" lessons, no more moral outrage from the Deaccession Police.

Pretty please?