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University of Iowa Museum Will Lose AAM Accreditation If Pollock Sold

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

It doesn’t get more forceful than this:

The American Association of Museums has just announced that it will rescind its accreditation of the University of Iowa Museum of Art if certain state legislators succeed in their attempt to compel the sale of the museum’s important Pollock “Mural” to fund student scholarships.

Below is AAM’s letter in full. I assume that “To Whom It May Concern” refers chiefly to the shortsighted politicians campaigning for this deplorable disposal, which is strongly opposed by the museum, the university and the State Board of Regents.

To Whom It May Concern:

The Accreditation Commission of the American Association of Museums registers its extreme concern about the Iowa legislature’s proposed sale of Jackson Pollock’s famed painting “Mural” in the collection of the University of Iowa Museum of Art. The intent of the sale, according to the proponents of the legislation, is to underwrite costs at the University of Iowa, specifically to support scholarships for students.

The University of Iowa Museum of Art is currently accredited by the American Association of Museums, and this status is important to a museum’s credibility with donors, funders, and the public. Accredited museums have a fundamental fiduciary and ethical responsibility to care for and maintain their collections and determine disposition following national standards. The collections for accredited museums must be unencumbered and cannot be treated as disposable financial assets.

Sale of the work by Jackson Pollock for the proposed ends of scholarship support would directly violate national standards and best practices for U.S. museums and would result in the Commission’s rescinding the University of Iowa Museum of Art’s accreditation. This bill, if passed, would require an accredited museum to knowingly violate national standards and best practices. Furthermore, it would put other state-funded or governed museums in Iowa at risk for similar actions.

Museum collections are held in the public trust. We call on the public, museum community, and legislators to prevent this action.

Bonnie W. Styles, Ph.D., Chair, Accreditation Commission

The Association of Art Museum Directors yesterday distributed a two-page letter decrying the possible sale. AAMD issued this warning:

Infractions [of professional guidelines prohibiting use of sale proceeds for operations]…may expose that institution to censure and/or sanctions, as determined by the Board of Trustees of the AAMD, that may…include…suspension of loans and shared exhibitions between the

Will Iowa’s Attorney General, Tom Miller, rise to defend donor intent and the public’s interest in its cultural patrimony? Pam White, interim director of UIMA during previous threats to monetize it, and current adjunct professor of art and law at the university (co-teaching a course on “Art, Law and Ethics”) told me this:

I am sure concerned individuals, if not the Regents or other UI officials who oppose such a sale, would approach him [Miller] to halt the sale via injunction. And any resulting hearing/trial would pit those for such a sale against the interests of all Iowans who wish to keep the painting in the state.

Meanwhile, concerned art students have announced a Feb. 24 demonstration on campus to raise awareness of the controversy and the painting that sparked it. They will come “dressed in white, and passersby will be welcome to help splatter-paint the students’ clothing, sign a petition, and find out more about the Pollock painting.”

At this writing, the group’s Save the Pollock Facebook page indicates that 390 people plan to attend that event.

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