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My Deaccession Lecture in Iowa, Now Online; Report on Sotheby’s Post-Flood Visit

The University of Iowa has just put my Apr. 15 lecture about desperation deaccessions  online. If you’ve got an hour or so to spare, you can click the arrow at the bottom of this post to hear and see my pointed commentary on past and recent perpetrators, from Hoving to Branagan, with an emphasis on college and university museums (Fisk University, Randolph College, Brandeis University).

With the strong support of its president, Sally Mason, the University of Iowa’s dislocated museum has thus far managed to hang onto its valuable Pollock “Mural,” despite major financial pressures caused by widespread damage from last June’s Iowa River flood, and also despite a full-court press by officials from Sotheby’s. The auction house had previously appraised the university’s collection, at the museum’s request. And a prior director of the museum, pre-flood, had sought a proposal from Sotheby’s regarding possible sale of two star works, the Pollock and its Max Beckmann 1943 triptych, “Carnival.”

I was told by a University of Iowa official, who was present at the meeting, that Sotheby’s executives arrived on the scene soon after the disaster, offering various forms of help and specifically mentioning the services they had performed for Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Gallery. My several requests for comment from Sotheby’s on that meeting (including one live and in person to William Ruprecht, the auction house’s president and CEO) were not answered. Ruprecht said that the details I had mentioned to him did not jibe with his recollection, but he referred me to his public relations department, which did not answer the questions I put to it both before and after my chat with Ruprecht. In response to my initial request, Diana Phillips, Sotheby’s director of press and corporate affairs, had replied: “We won’t be commenting but appreciate being asked.”

But back to my Iowa lecture, which occurred in the city where President Obama‘s just announced nominee to head the National Endowment for the Humanities, former Republican Congressman Jim Leach, still maintains a home. Iowa City attorney David Bright, whom you see below, spoke directly after me, adding astute legal commentary. Pamela White, the museum’s interim director, introduced us:

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