Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Museum Cutbacks and Maintenance Costs

Facing harsh economic realities--and a declining endowment--the Art Institute of Chicago has begun closing two of its galleries for one to two hours a day in order to make ends meet. On a similar note, The Washington Post ran an interesting article:

Whether in good times or bad, the hardest money for any arts organization to raise is for upkeep -- leaking roofs, outdated heating and air-conditioning systems, more efficient lightning.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

Maxwell Anderson: Deaccessioning Without Putting Your Mission up for Sale

Maxwell Anderson, the Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, writes on Art:21 Blog on the state of deaccessioning today:

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

Isabel Abislaiman on The Brodsky Bill

The New York County Lawyers' Association has just published an article by one of its members, Isabel Abislaiman, on the current state of deaccessioning in New York and the Brodsky Bill. Thanks to Ms. Abislaiman for citing this blog and Clancco: Art & Law.

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.

Into the Void: Museum Exhibitions, Auctions, and Deaccessioning

Last Thursday's New York Times has an interesting article by Fred Bernstein on the current exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum concerning donated artworks and fund raising.

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

Paper: On Deaccessioning for Operating Expenses

Jonathan Lee Rohner, a candidate in the Master of Arts in the Faculty of Teachers College, Columbia University, has just published a paper on deaccessioning. The paper, Profiting from Paintings and Paying the Price: The Implications of Increased Deaccessioning for General Operating Expenses in U.S. Art Museums, is available for download here. I haven't had time to read it yet, but look forward to analyzing its argument. An abstract is just below.

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

Article: Deaccessioning on a Stricter Trust Standard of Care

A reader just sent me this link to this article in Art, Antiquities, and Law on deaccessioning. Here's the SSN abstract:

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 Sues Fresno Museum for Prints

Remember when the Fresno Art Museum announced that it was shutting its door for good, and holding a garage sale to cover its creditors' claims? Well, we have the first litigation regarding this sale.

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.