Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Deaccessioning is the kind of word that makes eyes glaze over and can seem to be the preserve of dusty intellectuals and large museums. But it’s just a fancy name for the sale or giving away of art and artifacts by museums and other cultural organizations, and the dust-up here in this city of about 5,000 demonstrates that such debates occur in all kinds of places, big and small, where people feel protective about materials in their care.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
The proceedings will be chaired by Dr Stephen Deuchar CBE, Director of the Art Fund. The confirmed speakers are, Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries; Sir Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust; Dr Johann Kräftner, Director, Director of the Collections of the Prince of Liechtenstein, Vaduz – Vienna, Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna; Dr Nick Merriman, Director of the Manchester Museum and Convenor of the Museums Association\\\'s Ethics Committee; Dr Nicholas Penny, Director of the National Gallery; Dr Timothy Potts, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum; and Gary Tinterow, Engelhard Chairman, Nineteenth-Century, Modern & Contemporary Art of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
More info here.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
According to the AHC, the article describes a systematic, step-by-step process for responsible and ethical deaccessioning. From legal issues to donor relations, the case study provides a practical method for other repositories wishing to do something about collections that fall outside their collecting scope. You can access the case study here.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Britain’s Beaverbrook Foundation is consigning the 48 art works it was given title to in September at the conclusion of a lengthy and expensive legal battle to Sotheby’s auctioneers in New York and London.
Sotheby’s confirmed Friday that it would sell the works at a series of auctions set for December this year and January 2010. The 48 pieces were among the 133 that the foundation and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, N.B., fought over for more than six years.
Via The Globe and Mail.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
The "new" way? The city of Denver may sell four Still paintings to fund a major operations endowment to ensure the Clifford Still Museum's long-term viability. Isn't this move prohibited by the AAMD and anti-deaccessionists?
Clyfford Still Museum director Dean Sobel believes the established AAMD anti-deaccessioning guidelines do not apply to it. Why? According to The Denver Post, it's a technicality.
The privately funded museum, which is set to open late next year, has not yet officially taken possession of the pieces. They were bequeathed to the city of Denver when Still's widow, Patricia, died in 2005. The museum petitioned a Maryland county court on Nov. 3 to permit the estate of Patricia Still, which has yet to be distributed, to release the four works early — before the formal transfer of ownership occurs.
[T]he museum believes the good outweighs any bad. The money would create a major endowment that would assure the museum's long-term financial viability. It would cover not only exhibition costs and general expenses but also publications, research and symposia that would ensure it a key place in American art scholarship.
According to Sobel, the four Still paintings are to be sold as a group, and only to another museum. The rest of the story, and a great Q&A regarding possible outcomes is available via The Denver Post here.
Friday, October 29, 2010
We previously discussed the basics of the accessioning and deaccesioning processes art museums go through in dealing with their collections, but what about the specifics? A delicate process such as deaccessioning certainly raises a few questions including issues of transparency, maintaining the public trust, and the debate as to whether the current guidelines are enough to keep museum art collections from becoming mere commodities.
Marlon Bishop, of WNYC, interviewed me on Tuesday, October 19, for a story on deaccessioning. The radio version came out on Wednesday, October 20, but you can read Bishop’s article, Art Deaccessioning: Right or Wrong?, on WNYC’s website, as well as hear a few soundbites from me; Kaywin Feldman, president of the Association of Art Museum Directors and director of the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts; and anti-deaccessionist, Lee Rosenbaum.
I will elaborate more on deaccessioning here and on my other blog, Clancco, soon. What do you think? Deaccession or not? Is there a middle ground?
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Why the ostracism? The general public and media consensus: "Keeping art for the public's enjoyment and study is the reason for having tax-exempt art museums in the first place, and failing to do that in the case of the Church and Gifford paintings is what brought down sanctions on the National Academy."
Via the LA Times.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Last month the board indicated it planned to make the emergency regulations permanent, in part because a bill to prohibit cultural institutions from selling pieces from their collections to pay for expenses had stalled in the Legislature.
Via The NY Times.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
The WSJ reported today that the "Chelsea museum could face the loss of its charter or referral to the state attorney general's office following disclosure that its entire permanent collection of artwork was pledged as collateral for a loan needed to pay its mortgage."
Bad news for the Chelsea Museum, but good news for other art museums and art institutions. The NY Times reports that the dreaded Brodsky Bill and legislation making the deaccessioning process illegal is pretty much dead.
The bill’s Senate sponsor, José M. Serrano, said he withdrew support after hearing feedback from cultural institutions. “We all saw that a one-size-fits-all approach was not going to work,” he said. “I didn’t think that we would be able to make wholesale changes to the bill that would make it palatable for everyone.”
Good news indeed!
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Bill Viola, April Gornik and Eric Fischl have pulled out of the show Atmospheric Conditions at the Rose Art Museum until Brandeis administrators sign an agreement not to sell art from the collection.
As for the postponement of the show, Brandeis spokesperson Andrew Gully notes, “I don’t think it says anything about the museum; I think it speaks to the artists who decided not to come,’’ he said. “We clearly have a great show in the fall coming.’’
The Rose is replacing the Atmospheric Conditions exhibition with one by James Rosenquist, who sees the three-artist pull-out as negative and knee-jerk. “I’m having a show there that will put a spotlight on the museum, and maybe they won’t sell anything. I’d rather do that than be negative and pull out and let it dry up,” said Rosenquist. More from the Boston Globe here.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Via The Detroit Free Press.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Monday, May 31, 2010
The press release explains that these talks are in the formative stages and that "President [Jehuda] Reinharz said it is premature to say what kind of agreements might be negotiated, what the time frame may be, what parties might be interested, what art might be included or how much revenue any agreement might generate."
Via the Brandeis Justice.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Via The Seattle Times.
Shelly Banjo of the WSJ explores this story as well as other art institutions that are struggling to stay afloat during these trying economic times.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Is there conventional wisdom amongst arts organizations that [you] disagree with and try to fight against?
His detailed answers here.
Monday, April 26, 2010
More, via the deteriorating Huffington Post.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Whether in good times or bad, the hardest money for any arts organization to raise is for upkeep -- leaking roofs, outdated heating and air-conditioning systems, more efficient lightning.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Disobedience in the act of deaccessioning today is as rampant as it was with regard to the 18th-century example of the Dodo—except that the untoward behavior of our time is not in service of preserving and protecting collections, but in service of monetizing them.
FYI: This is part of Art:21's "Should Art Be Ethical?" series.
Monday, March 22, 2010
There has been much tension about the controversial bill since its introduction in March 2009. Albany still needs time to grasp the complexities of the New York art world. The legislature can accomplish its goal of keeping the cultural heritage available to the public by handling this regulatory measure in the ordinary course of business instead of rushing it through the legislative process. So let the meetings and roundtables continue before the bill is signed into law.
Ms. Abislaiman is the principal of Abislaiman Law Offices in San Juan and New York City. Her areas of practice include litigation, art law, estates and real estate. She co-chairs NYCLA’s Art Committee and is a member of the Fine Art Board of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.
Museum auctions are nothing new — many institutions sell pieces donated by artists or collectors to raise money for programs. But the Guggenheim has taken things a step further, mounting a major exhibition with the intention of selling its contents.
I'm quoted in the article, and there's a bit on the relationship between this exhibition and deaccessioning.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
This essay explores the implications of an increase in deaccessioning by U.S. art museums to pay for general expenses. This type of activity has increased over the past year, exacerbated by the economic recession of 2008-2009. A brief history of U.S. museums is provided, as well as a description of these institutions’ current operating environments. The benefits of deaccessioning and considerations that must be taken into account are also described. Case studies are provided, as are recommendations as to how the U.S. art museum community can avoid the damages of general expense deaccessioning, while remaining flexible enough to allow struggling museums to operate in a difficult financial climate.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Art deaccessions prompt lawsuits against museums, and some commentators advocate using the stricter trust standard of care, instead of the prevailing corporate standard (business judgment rule), to evaluate the conduct of non-profit museum boards. This Article explores the consequences of adopting the trust standard by applying it to previously unavailable deaccession policies of prominent art museums. It finds that so long as museum boards adhere to these policies, their decisions would satisfy the trust standard. This outcome illustrates an important limitation of fiduciary law: the trust standard evaluates procedural care but cannot assess deaccessions on their merits. Yet this limitation, far from undercutting the trust rule, balances judicial review with protecting boards’ management discretion. This article ventures beyond formalist analysis of fiduciary duty and examines the non-legal, substantive rules governing art deaccessions. It argues that complemented by non-legal rules, the trust standard provides the best framework for adjudicating deaccession lawsuits because it ensures judicial scrutiny of deaccession procedures while leaving appraisal of deaccessions’ merits to museum professionals and the public they serve.
You may download the full article here. I haven't read it yet, as I'm headed out to enjoy this rare NY winter day. More on it later.
Friday, March 5, 2010
Ansel Adams' son sued the Fresno Metropolitan Museum, seeking return of six of his father's iconic works, including three shots of Yosemite Valley. Adams's son says that when he learned the museum was liquidating its collection, he asked it, through counsel, to return the prints. The museum responded, through its counsel, "that it believes the plaintiff's gifts of the Adams Prints was absolute and unconditional," and that "The Met believes that it may sell the Adams Prints to satisfy its creditors' claims."
Via Courthouse News Service.
Friday, February 26, 2010
The New Britain Museum of American Art feels that deaccessioning works from the permanent collection is not such a bad thing.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
A Brandeis University committee has recommended cutting more than 20 faculty positions and dropping some academic programs in response to financial pressures caused by the economic downturn. Dean of arts and sciences Adam Jaffe tells The Boston Globe that the proposed cuts, which the provost is expected to review in coming weeks, would be carried out over a number of years and eventually save $3.8 million annually.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Is the Fresno Art Museum -- the only modern art museum between San Francisco and Los Angeles also on the brink?
Judith Dobrzynski has more on this. If it does close, I think that makes it three closed since I pronounced 10 museums would close. I may just hit my mark by the end of this year.
Monday, February 1, 2010
It's sad, but true, that several people on both sides of the issue told me that I was "brave" to propose something at odds with the official AAMD/AAM position. It was as if I had voluntarily touched the Third Rail of the museum world.
This sentiment was borne out at the Brodsky bill roundtable: People are afraid to discuss the very possibility. There was almost no dissent (except for objections to an unfunded mandate) until, at 1 p.m., two hours after the Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports convened the roundtable, Brodsky satisfyingly looked around and said it was the last chance for people who differed with him to speak up. Only then did people rise to the mike to disagree or question the bill, and only then did the rumbles in the audience begin.
More troubling still, one thing I've learned since Jan. 2 is precisely how little trust exists in the museum world. Directors don't trust their trustees; trustees don't trust one another; many trustees don't trust their directors. I knew there was some amount of mistrust -- but I didn't know relations were this bad.
Museum directors -- even some you think are strong -- fear their trustees, finding it hard to disagree with the powerful ones, ever. (I know, I know, trustees provide the money, and directors work for the board, but absolute obeisance is unhealthy.)
While it's no secret that trustees join boards because they contribute money or art, too many trustees have little interest in art -- maybe none. If they're there only for the prestige and the power, I blame the nominating committee and the board chairman.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
To raise substantial amounts of income, you must sell good, and thereby potentially important, works of art. The smaller the amount raised by sales of works of art, the more this solution becomes stopgap. If a long-term solution is to be achieved, not only must substantial amounts be raised, but also the money must be put into an endowment with an annual spendable rate that preserves the principal.
The unintended consequences could well include a change in the board’s perception of its fiduciary responsibility to one more focused on asset management than philanthropy. Human nature has shown us that if there is an accepted alternative to giving one’s own money, many, if not all, will seize it. And potential and past donors of works of art will be uncertain as to the future use of their gifts.
While I agree with Wood, I'm not so sure that these valid considerations would not be within the mindset of deaccessioning arbitrators. Remember that Dobrzynski was keen in asking that the arbitrators have not only artistic and legal expertise, but nonprofit governance expertise as well. Surely in better economic times deaccessioning arbitrators would not allow, much less facilitate, the fire-sale of Warhols and Picassos simply because board members failed to "give or get."
Wood's full letter here.
Interesting thoughts nonetheless.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
The exhibits and assets inside the building will all be auctioned off to pay back creditors... sold at auctions in big cities, like San Francisco and New York, [hoping] the pieces will earn 50–to–60 cents on the dollar, on the auction block. The remaining Met employees have until the end of this month to clear out the building.
One down, 9 to go.
Monday, January 4, 2010
The Battle Over Dobrzynsk Bridge has begun. You can read about it here, here, and here. Christopher Knight twitters his distate here.
I wonder if the strict and pure anti-deaccessioninsts would feel the same way if it was their job on the line or, heaven forbid, their one-person exhibition that was being cancelled. I'm not going to say much more than that, but rather wait on the sidelines and watch these participants fool themselves into thinking they're playing US Open tennis instead of ping pong.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
[I posted this on Clancco.com, but in order to facilitate access to readers of this blog I've also posted it here.]
Judith H. Dobrzynski, a former reporter and editor at the NY Times, wrote yesterday on a very interesting alternative to the deaccessioning fight. In brief, she argues for an "impartial arbitrator," which would hear a museum's argument and need for deaccessioning art to pay the bills.
Maybe it’s best to amend the unwritten sales ban, but not end it. What if a museum had to argue its case for de-accessioning art before an impartial arbitrator? This neutral party would need to be schooled in art, art law and nonprofit regulations. [bold mine]
If done properly, this is actually the best solution put on the table so far, and to my delight (and self-serving position) something not too far from what I have argued here.
THE squeeze is on. Museums everywhere are having trouble making ends meet, what with the overblown expansions they’ve made, the decline in investment income and the steep drop-off in contributions from foundations and individuals. Many have cut staff, frozen pay, trimmed exhibition schedules and slowed or stopped acquisitions. For some, that may not be enough: the American Folk Art Museum, to cite one example, recently admitted that it isn’t making debt payments.
Dobrzynski seems to be reigniting, in an academic and open town-hall-meeting of sorts, the deaccessioning debate started in early 2009 over the Rose Art Museum, and being the first in 2010 to realize that the museum economic disasters are intensifying and not-at-all decreasing. She sites others on her corner with similar thoughts.
What’s next? In some corners, there’s fear that museum officials will do what is absolutely forbidden by art-world rules: raise operating cash with a sale of artwork. Already some respected figures — David Gordon, former head of the Milwaukee Art Museum, and Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, for example — are saying that the rule against selling art for any purpose other than buying more art is wrong.
What do you think? Deaccessioning Arbitration and Regulation Panel (DARP)? That's my vote! Good start for 2010. Judith's article in its entirety here.