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.
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1 comment:

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