"The latest scandale du jour is the Baltimore Museum of Art’s deaccession plans. While legitimate questions have been raised about the upcoming sale of three paintings, the castigation is redolent with racial privilege. In a particularly ghoulish piece of commentary ('As night follows day, natural disasters bring out the scammers ready to exploit public confusion and fear'), the Los Angeles Times’s Christopher Knight recently complained about 'mission-driven' deaccessions—i.e., selling works to finance increased equity and diversity for both museum employees and audiences, by raising salaries, restructuring staffing, offering free admission, and expanding museum hours. Yet the alternative is ensuring that the office and the visitors remain white, while security and maintenance stay Black and brown. It is effectively an argument for maintaining white supremacy at museums."
Thursday, December 31, 2020
"One of the few silver linings to emerge from the pandemic was the announcement, back in April, that the American Alliance of Museum Directors had relaxed its guidelines on deaccessioning. For now, museums can sell works to pay for operating expenses. Few have followed through, however—perhaps because art-world pundits, once again, responded with conservative alarm."
LA Times: "For the art world, 2020 was the year that the Black Lives Matter movement spurred a deeper conversation about inclusion and equity, ultimately leading some museums to sell off works by certain artists — usually white, often male — ostensibly to diversify their permanent collections."
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
"On Friday, Sotheby’s filed a 27-page memo in New York State Supreme Court asking a judge to dismiss the case."
Eileen Kinsella at artnet news: Sotheby’s Pushes to Dismiss the New York Attorney General’s Lawsuit Over Its Alleged Role in Helping a Collector Evade Taxes. Background here.
Thursday, December 17, 2020
"It cannot be seriously disputed that the COVID-19 pandemic is a natural disaster. One need look no further than the common meaning of the words natural disaster."
Sunday, December 13, 2020
Two of the three New York Times art critics mention the BMA deaccessioning controversy in their year in review lists
Holland Cotter says "last May the Baltimore Museum of Art planned to auction works from its collection to pay for — among other things — equitable staff salaries, only to be hit by a firestorm of protests," and that they had "legitimate arguments to make, but didn’t make them convincingly, and had to pull back."
And Jason Farago says "on deaccessioning, I’m not a strict constructionist. Selling art that hasn’t been shown for decades can sometimes be justified. But strategically raiding your galleries for cash is a scandal; equity and preservation are not at odds; and woke austerity is still austerity."
Cotter's list includes a number of other art law related things: "continuing a trend from 2019, museum workers, voicing grievances based on racial discrimination and economic exploitation, have increasingly sought to unionize"; "after three years of foot-dragging, the French Senate signed off on a bill in November promising to return a group of looted objects to Africa"; and "this past July, after years of advocacy, a bill proposing the establishment of a National Museum of the American Latino in Washington was finally passed by the House of Representatives."
Saturday, December 12, 2020
Sunday, December 06, 2020
"A Baltimore museum tried to raise money by selling three pricey artworks. It backfired stupendously."
Sebastian Smee and Peggy McGlone go over the BMA saga in the Washington Post. They end up here:
"But there’s one thing the Baltimore episode made clear: even the most noble of causes, including paying the mostly minority guards a living wage and improving access for the community, can’t be funded by monetizing the collection."
Leaving aside that there is one noble cause that everyone agrees can be funded by monetizing the collection (buying more art), that really is the question, isn't it? Is the correct moral principle that, no matter how noble the cause, it can never be funded through the sale of art?
Saturday, December 05, 2020
AEA's Harry Fisher-Jones on The deaccessioning debate: 1990-2020.
"The sale is the second since the summer, when MOLAA announced an online auction of 167 artworks from Latin American and Latino artists to benefit a COVID-19 recovery fund. The museum has been shuttered since March."
Christopher Knight in the LA Times: Museum of Latin American Art is selling dozens of works from its collection.
The story points out that "according to financials posted on the museum’s website, in 2019 MOLAA already faced a deficit of $340,617 on an annual budget of nearly $3.7 million."
There's a brief mention at Courthouse New Service here. This is the one where they gave the artist 90 days to remove the mural back in the summer, but he claims in his complaint (which you can read here) that it can't be removed without destroying it.