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More Thoughts on “Gross Clinic”

The fundraising campaign to keep “The Gross Clinic” in Philadelphia cannot be considered a roaring success, having fallen far short of its goal during the appointed time.
And because of the way yesterday’s announcement was handled, coming up with the rest of the money is likely to prove even harder, as Carol Vogel’s piece in today’s NY Times inadvertently demonstrates:
Yesterday’s announcement puts to rest a frenzied and highly publicized fund-raising campaign cast as a battle for civic pride.
It doesn’t “put it to rest,” as Vogel’s own piece elsewhere indicates: The fundraising continues. But the city’s emphasis on the fact that the painting has definitedly been “saved,” coupled with the public disclosure that bank financing that will insure this, immediately drains the sense of urgency from the campaign.
I’m usually all for public disclosure, but in this case they should have just announced that the fundraising deadline had been extended to Jan. 31, revealed exactly what had been raised to date (providing updated totals from here on out), and told concerned Eakins-lovers that they need to step up their support.
One other quibble: I understand the fundraising reason for this partnership, but it seems absurb, not to mention unnecessarily dangerous to the painting, to keep shuttling it back and forth in perpetuity between two nearby locations in the same city—the Philadelphia Museum and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Hopefully, once things settle down, these peregrinations will be kept to a minimum.
And then, there’s this troubling quote from today’s report by Stephan Salisbury in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Herbert Riband, vice chairman of the academy’s board, said it is possible that some works might be sold from museum collections to help cover the costs of the transaction. But he said that was only a possibility.
Anne d’Harnoncourt, director of the Philadelphia Museum, had refused to answer the deaccession question, when it was previously posed to her by Vogel.
In one other way, as Salisbury’s article indicates, this contretemps may have broad ramifications:
[Mayor] Street said he is sending legislation to City Council that would “establish a registry of all important” objects and works of art in the city. Such a registry, he said, would serve as an alarm system if a work is threatened with sale or removal.
This might also serve as an alarm system for those who believe that an art registry would be an interference with private property rights.

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