Massive Links! Deaccessioning Edition

by Art Fag City on April 10, 2009 Events

Art Fag City
Thomas Eakins, Wrestlers, 1899, oil on canvas, 48 3/8 by 60 inches

Sorry for the radio silence this week–  we’ve been working hard on assignments and upcoming blog features.   With Easter and Passover upon us, we’re leaving the larger blog pieces for Monday, but we’ve got two Massive Links posts to take you into the weekend.   First up: Deaccessioning!   An overview of this week’s squabbling;

  • Art law blogger Donn Zaretsky writes on deaccessioning for Art in America, stirring up all kinds of controversy amongst art bloggers.  He argues that the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) position should allow museums to sell to other museums, since the work remains part of the public trust. He also notes the inconsistency between “the widely accepted principle that it’s okay to sell art for some purposes (i.e., to purchase other art; to care for the collection), but not for others (i.e., to pay for operating expenses, capital expenses or debts).” (Paraphrased by Culturegrrl).  Let the debate begin!
  • Culturegrrl doesn’t agree. She rebuts the argument of museums selling to other museums by saying if the work is already the public’s stuff, why should we have to pay for it twice? She notes the inconsistency of museum ethics on the subject of deaccessioning calls for a tightening, not loosening, of standards.
  • Never one to miss a possible conflict of interest/non-disclosure, Tyler Green asks if Zaretsky has clients who are considering deaccessioning.  In this case, it’s probably a reasonable question to pose, though I thought we were all assuming he does.
  • Culture Monster’s Christopher Knight takes issue with Zaretsky’s assertion that “The rule [limiting the use of deaccession income] is usually justified on the ground that works in museum collections are held ‘in trust’ for the public and therefore cannot be sold.”  He cites the AAMD handbook, and says they think when sales inevitably happen, they need to handled with care.   He goes on to say Zaretsky’s argument is so flimsy it damages the reputation of Art in America.   This seems a little extreme.  Knowingly publishing a contentious essay likely to evoke response seems a fairly standard move in the grab for readership and Internet traffic.  [Disclosure: I contribute to Art in America].
  • In wholly unrelated news: Modern Art Obsession notes photographer Nan Goldin is auctioning off her dildo.

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