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The Maier Monday Massacre: Ex-Director Describes What Happened

Karol Lawson, who resigned her directorship of the Maier Museum on Tuesday, in protest against Monday afternoon’s surprise removal of four paintings consigned to Christie’s for auction, told me in a phone interview yesterday that she had no knowledge that any specific paintings from the museum’s collection had been targeted for liquidation, let alone that anyone was coming to wisk them away, until John Klein, the president of Randolph College, showed up unannounced in her office late Monday afternoon to ask if she was going to help him.

Here’s her account of what happened next:

I said, ‘Help you with what?'” He said the paintings were leaving the building. His assistant and the head of personel of the college stayed with me in my office the whole time—for the next hour and a half. Phone service and computer service to the museum was cut off.

He [Klein] indicated he did not know how to pack paintings. I said,”‘Who is in the truck [parked outside]?” He said, “Qualified art handlers.” I said, “If they’re qualified art handlers, they know how to pack paintings.” I was not going to pack paintings….He urged me to see that they were handling the Bellows [“Men of the Docks”] properly.

The college’s lawyer was the only one holding it up. I said twice that the painting should not leave unless it was in a crate. I saw bubble wrap being brought in. I did not witness the packing or the removal from the building….

The action they took on Monday was antithetical to every tenet of the museum profession to which I belong.

Yes it was. And for Carrie Sidener‘s account in the Lynchburg, VA, News & Advance of the apology by the Lynchburg police for their role in this museum raid—a false warning to onlookers about a bomb threat against the building—go here.

And here’s what Laura Katzman, who some months ago resigned her position as head of the college’s museum studies program, in protest against contemplated sales, said about Monday’s bomb-threat warning:

Is this not illegal if not dangerous in this day and age of terrorist threats? And what a ruse! Don’t the city police know that the Maier’s building is a bomb shelter, built by the National Gallery in the 1950s to protect the nation’s art in a national emergency? The building is bomb proof!

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