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It&#146s the Pits: MoMA&#146s Tamayo “Watermelon Slices” Joins the “Season of Deaccessions”

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From MoMA to Sotheby’s: Rufino Tamayo, “Watermelon Slices,” 1950
Presale estimate: $1.5-2 million

November is rapidly becoming Deaccession Month, with the Museum of Modern Art now joining the Brooklyn Museum, Boston Museum of Fine Arts and Clyfford Still Museum (via the City of Denver), in selling museum-quality work from the “permanent” collection to fund future acquisitions. (The situation is somewhat different in Denver, which is selling works that are not technically being “deaccessioned” but had been intended for study and display at the new Still Museum. Proceeds from four Stills will be used to establish an operating endowment, originally to have been created through fundraising.)

MoMA has repeatedly been an aggressive deaccessioner of fine works to buy what its curators regard as finer works. Its latest disposable—Rufino Tamayo‘s “Watermelon Slices” (above)—has a distinguished exhibition history, as described in Sotheby’s press release:

It has been in the museum’s collection since 1953…and has been included in exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art…and Tate Gallery.

Of the remaining Tamayos featured on MoMA’s collections website, none are from the 1950s.

This upcoming sale (on Nov. 16) gave me traumatic flashbacks to another deaccessioned Tamayo—the one that had belonged to Randolph College’s Maier Museum and was sold for a record $7.21 million, three and a half years ago, to bolster the college’s finances:

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Rufino Tamayo, “Troubadour,” 1945, ex-Maier Museum

Interestingly, while getting rid of one Mexican artist’s painting from its distinguished collection of Latin American art, MoMA is poised to open an exhibition devoted to another, who was Tamayo’s contemporary: Diego Rivera: Murals for the Museum of Modern Art (Nov. 13-May 14) “will reunite five ‘portable murals’—freestanding frescoes with bold images commemorating events in Mexican history—that were made for a monographic exhibition of the artist’s work at the Museum in 1931,” according to the above-linked press release.

MoMA’s show will also include “design drawings for his infamous Rockefeller Center mural”—“infamous” because the monumental work was destroyed after Rivera refused to bow to Nelson Rockefeller‘s insistence that he paint out the head of Lenin.

Letting bygones be bygones, Nelson’s only surviving brother, David Rockefeller, MoMA’s honorary chairman, provided what the museum calls “generous funding” for the Rivera show.

In other deaccession news: The Art Institute of Chicago has an under-the-radar consignment in next month’s Impressionist/modern sale at Christie’s—a Pissarro with an extensive exhibition history—not at Chicago but in various “Masterpieces” exhibitions dispatched by the Art Institute to Japan.

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From Chicago to Christie’s: Pissarro, “Juin, temps pluvieux, Eragny,” 1898
Presale estimate: $1.5-2 million

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