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Deaccessions 101: Jori Finkel’s NY Times Survey of National Academy, Fisk, Maier, Albright-Knox, etc.

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Jori Finkel

While you’re waiting for my promised “deaccession-or-die” opinion piece (a companion post to yesterday’s screed against AAMD’s harsh punishment of the National Academy), today’s required reading is Whose Rules Are These, Anyway? from tomorrow’s NY Times “Arts & Leisure” section (online today). The estimable Jori Lee Finkel (who should use her middle name) hits most of the bases (but misses the NY Public Library and the New-York Historical Society) in a rundown of recently consummated or considered desperation deaccessions.

Finkel evenhandedly quotes opinionators on both sides of the question, giving the first and last words to Carmine Branagan, director of the Academy, whose sales were the news peg for Jori’s story. I’ll be giving the beleaguered Branagan a lot more words next week—a long Q&A post, derived from the conversation in her office that led to my breaking the Academy deaccession story. After giving the director her full say, I’ll have my say on what she’s done, in a subsequent post.

Meanwhile, my vote for best take from the Times article on the subject of deaccessions goes to Graham Beal, director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, which despite its large, chronic deficits is not desperate enough to sell the public’s patrimony. Finkel reports:

Mr. Beal said he often fields questions from new trustees about selling artworks: “Since we have four van Goghs, people say why don’t we sell one of the van Goghs?”

“It makes perfect sense in the business world, where they’re looking for assets to sell the way Ford sold Jaguar,” he said….”If it were suddenly legitimate to sell artworks and use the proceeds for anything other than acquisitions,” Mr. Beal contended, “there would be a wholesale cannibalization of many museums.”

And while you’re perusing Saturday’s Times, don’t miss the Op-Ed piece by William Ferris, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, who wants Obama to appoint a cabinet-level Secretary of Culture. I think a concentration of power in one person over our nation’s diverse cultural life is a misguided, anti-pluralistic notion. I would be happy to see a new WPA for the arts, but please spare me the Culture Czar!

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