Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Economic Impact on Art Galleries and Museums

The Journal Star on the economic impact on galleries and museums.

The scariest example of proposed deaccessioning: Brandeis University considered closing its Rose Art Museum and selling off its collection, estimated at $350 million, to raise funds. That controversial plan was rejected earlier this month, and Brandeis president Jehuda Reinharz, who had proposed the sale, resigned last week.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sotheby's to Proceed With Polaroid Auction Despite Protests

Dismissing photographers' protests, Sotheby’s plans to go ahead with its sale of 1,300 prints from the Polaroid collection, which are valued between $7 million and $11 million. For background on this story, click here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Legal Issues in Museum Deaccessioning

The law firm of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP has a nice snapshot on their blog concerning the legal issues facing museums and deaccessioning.

Ethical controversy aside, a museum or other nonprofit may not have the legal right to sell off a given piece of art. It depends entirely on the terms of the specific instrument - often a will, trust or fractional gift rather than an outright deed of gift - through which the institution acquired the art in question. Such terms will be interpreted in line with legal precedent that may favor donor intent over current institutional interests.

All nonprofits - not just museums - are subject to oversight by state attorneys general. While AGs often have more urgent priorities than the role of nonprofit watchdogs, the art collector/donor community is composed of precisely those individuals who can set an investigation in motion with a phone call or two. In order to protect themselves, nonprofit trustees should be able to show that they have acted in good faith and exercised due care in arriving at their decision, and considered alternatives to selling the art.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Brandeis Files Motion to Dismiss

According to Brandeis University's newspaper, The Justice, Brandeis has filed a motion today to dismiss the lawsuit seeking to preserve the Rose Art Museum's collection. The motion will be heard Oct. 13. Outside counsel Thomas Riley expressed the dire situations facing colleges and universities at large, and given the dramatic endowment losses reported by the Ivy League last week, Brandeis can't be blamed.

Donn Zaretsky has a good analysis on the motion to dismiss here, arguing strongly that donors, in this case the Rose family, have little if any standing.

"Time and again, Massachusetts courts and the Legislature have rejected the notion that donors or their heirs have standing ... to enforce their vision of how a charitable organization should operate. The authority to supervise charities in this way is reserved exclusively to the Attorney General."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Blanden Memorial Art Museum to Deaccession Dropped Off Artworks

As a prime example of how deaccessioning can be done for the financial benefit of a museum, Iowa's Blanden Memorial Art Museum will sell 360 pieces in an Art is For Everyone Sale and Auction Oct. 10, 2009 at the new Bioscience and Health Sciences Building on the Iowa Central Community College campus.

According to The Messenger,

The work being sold has either been de-accessioned - that is, formally removed from the Blanden permanent collection through the board's action - or is orphan art. Orphan art is work that was given to the Blanden, but was never formally included into the museum's collection through accession.

According to museum director Maggie Skove, there are some very good reasons for this deaccessioning: "There's no space. We don't have the money to conserve. They're not worth conserving. The alternative of building a new vault area is simply out of the question."

Anti-deaccessionists and museum romantics (read: Tyler Green and Lee Rosenbaum) should hold their fire, because although the museum's permanent collection is comprised of work by some famous artists, such as Kandinsky, Klee, Calder, Chagall, Miro and Prendergast, the museum is adamant that "They are not for sale." In fact, according to the museum, the pieces either have no market in the art world, no auction record value, or were simply "just dropped at the door."

To make anti-deaccessionists even more comfortable, the museum will have a "document explaining the museum's de-accessioning process...available at its east door now and will be available to the public at the auction."

More from Iowa's Messenger here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Deaccessioning Roundup: Fall 2009

Modern Art Notes' Tyler Green highlights upcoming deaccessions, including The Hirshhorn, the Montclair Art Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Brandeis Restricts Access to All Rose Art Museum-related Materials

Brandeis University has restricted access to all Rose Art Museum-related materials in the Robert D. Farber University Archives and Special Collections until the completion of a review pertaining to a lawsuit filed by three members of the museum's Board of Overseers.

According to the University's legal counsel, Judith Sizer, "Full access to Rose-related documents housed in the archives will be reinstated when the review has been concluded, subject to any exigencies that may stem from the litigation recently filed against the University."

Task Force Formed to Educate University Trustees

From the College Art Association's website:

In response to troubling trends in university museums and galleries—including the sale of Maier Art Museum paintings by Randolph College, the closure of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, and the threat of sale of important modernist works at Fisk University—a task force was formed that includes CAA, the American Association of Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Association of College and University Museums and
Galleries, and the Kress Foundation to address ways to educate university trustees about the educational value of university museums and to explore protective avenues. A
petition was circulated to various associations and also set up online, which received several thousand signatures—including many from CAA members. The petition will be published in the Chronicle of Higher Education later this fall. Quiet conversations are continuing with Brandeis trustees, and several university accreditation commissions have been apprised of the concerns of the task force and the visual-arts field.