Breaking news here.
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
"In a shocking last-minute move, the Baltimore Museum of Art has 'decided to pause' its plans to sell three works from its collection with Sotheby’s .... The news was announced by the Maryland institution just two hours before two of the works were expected to hit the auction block in New York."
Monday, October 26, 2020
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Hard to keep up with all the Baltimore commentary. I'll try to round a bunch of it up here and update as they come in.
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Thinking more about Mark Stryker's excellent tweet yesterday -- where he basically says in one sentence what I've been trying to say here for about 12 years -- and Everson board president Jessica Arb Danial's excellent piece, I'm reminded of the initial question I had about this whole issue, as quoted in Jori Finkel's New York Times piece all those years ago:
"Donn Zaretsky, a New York lawyer who specializes in art cases, has sympathized with the National Academy at [The Art Law Blog], asking why a museum can sell art to buy more art but not to cover overhead costs or a much-needed education center. 'Why should we automatically assume that buying art always justifies a deaccessioning, but that no other use of proceeds — no matter how important to an institution’s mission — ever can?' he wrote."
I still think that's the right question.
We know, as Stryker reminds us, that museums sell work whenever they want, so it cannot be the case that they are held in public trust. The only issue is use of proceeds.
The Jessica Arb Danials of the world think there is another use of proceeds, besides buying art, that can justify a deaccessioning -- namely, social justice, equity, diversity, representation.
Her opponents disagree with that view.
Isn't that what it really comes down to?
Friday, October 16, 2020
Former Detroit Free Press arts reporter Mark Stryker tweets: "in future, critics will point to hypocrisy of museums selling whenever they want but crying 'public trust' only when convenient. The critics will be right."
"While fine arts experts and critics may try to shame the Everson and other like-minded museums for the decision to deaccession for the purpose of creating an endowment to diversify the collection, these voices are echoing decades of status quo art history textbook and gallery etiquette, rather than the realities we are living today."
"To seek to impose one’s ideals of an art museum, without considering how significantly the world has changed these last few decades, let alone these past few months, is nothing short of tone-deaf. Every one of us, especially in the arts, should be acting. The Everson is resolute in its decision to represent our community and will not miss out on an opportunity to create meaningful change.
In the "other" big deaccessioning story, the President of the Everson board defends the decision to sell a Pollock and use the proceeds to diversify its collection, including also the following:
"We see our role in this community as being much greater than retaining a single work of art, a status quo or the rigid sensibilities of a few critics, commentators and professional associations. We have something bigger in our hearts and minds, and it includes contributing most meaningfully to a community that is divided and hurting, preserving the talent of diverse artists still fighting barriers for entry and igniting the aspirations of young people who need to see themselves represented by artists."
Background, including comments from one of those critics, here.
The LA Times: "A group of 23 prominent supporters of the Baltimore Museum of Art, including former trustees at the BMA and the nearby Walters Art Museum, has written to Maryland Atty. Gen. Brian Frosh and Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith to demand that they intervene to stop the impending sale of paintings from the storied museum’s collection."
The museum's response -- including that "deaccessioning artworks from a museum's collection is a standard practice" -- can be read here.
The Baltimore Sun's editorial board weighs in here: "it’s an understandably painful pill for some to swallow. And change in general is uncomfortable. But we prefer to think of it not as closing a door on certain works by these white artists of the past, but instead opening the door to including diverse artists of the future, who would not have had the opportunity to be seen and appreciated in the same way in any other time in history, along with the new audience they could attract."
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
"Museums are not mausoleums or treasure houses, they are living organisms, oriented to the present as well as the past, and that is where the fundamental disagreement lies."
Tuesday, October 06, 2020
Still catching up on blogging, and last week's big story was the Baltimore Museum of Art putting three major paintings up for sale and planning to "use its $65 million windfall to help advance salary increases across the board, invest in diversity and inclusion programs, offer evening hours and eliminate admission fees for special exhibitions." The New York Times story is here. Eileen Kinsella has more here.
Christopher Bedford, the Museum's director, says "this is done specifically in recognition of the protest being led by museum staff to be paid an equitable living wage to perform core work for an institution with a social justice mission — that symmetry between who we say we are and what we actually are behind our doors."
As the Times points out, the Museum is "taking advantage of the Association of Art Museum Directors’ temporary pandemic-era loosening of its deaccessing guidelines. ... The B.M.A.’s game plan is ... in line with how the museum association defined its new resolution active until April 2022, said Christine Anagnos, its director. The first $10 million of proceeds from the ... sale will go into the museum’s endowment fund for acquisitions, with an emphasis on artists of color of the postwar era. The rest of the proceeds, approximately $55 million, will be used to create a new endowment for direct care of the collection. This fund should generate approximately $2.5 million annually in income, to cover the salaries of curators, registrars, conservators, preparators, art handlers, administrative staff and fellows, and other collection-related expenses."
I discussed that temporary pandemic-era loosening of the AAMD's deaccessioning guidelines here.
Monday, October 05, 2020
Story here. Background here. Brian Frye tweets: "I think VARA is terrible policy & I think the underlying decision was wrong on both the merits & the remedy. But the defendant was defiantly unsympathetic, so..."
UPDATE: New York Times story here.