Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New York Board of Regents Adopts New Deaccessioning Rules

Ironically, I was editing a piece on deaccessioning as the news of this decision was released. Here we go!

On Tuesday, May 17th, The New York Board of Regents approved new rules for deaccessioning artworks. The new rules apply to museums and historical societies charted by the Board of Regents, and go into effect on June 8, 2011.

The amendment specifies that at least one of ten specific criteria be met when museums deaccession a work. Among the criteria are proving that an item is inconsistent with the museum's mission, that it is redundant in the institution's collection or that a work is stolen or inauthentic. [bold on text added]

Among the more perplexing of criteria is the requirement that the art "item has failed to retain its identity." What exactly does this mean? That it was once a painting but it is now a frisbee? Or does it mean that the work is not authentic? If so, given the numerous lawsuits concerning authenticity issues I can certainly imagine a museum deaccessioning a work that has been deemed no longer an authentic, say, Picasso, only to find out later that it is in fact a Picasso.

The amendment also requires museums to set aside deaccessioning funds in a separate collections account to be used only for acquiring new works and for preserving existing pieces. Institutions that deaccession must also submit an annual list to the board containing all of its deaccessioned works.

The 11-page amendment can be accessed here. What do you think?


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