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National Academy Update (plus: details on its shaky financials)

The “update” is that there is no update.

On Saturday, I was told by architect Bruce Fowle, president of the National Academy, that a press release would be issued on Sunday or Monday, “clarifying her [director Carmine Branagan’s] status at the Academy.”

Architect Bruce Fowle, president, National Academy

Architect Bruce Fowle, president, National Academy

On Monday (yesterday), I was told by the Dewey Blanton, the Academy’s director of communications and public relations, that “it now seems more likely the release will not be ready until tomorrow” (that is, today).

Having heard nothing, I emailed him today at 5:08 p.m. and Blanton replied: “The press release will be issued when it is completed.” (Hmm…)

I’ve had an excellent working relationship with Dewey (in his former capacity as director of strategic communications for the American Alliance of Museums) over many years. He’s been among the most prompt and helpful PR spokespersons I’ve ever dealt with. I assume that he’s been hamstrung by the protracted and possibly fractious deliberations.

While we wait, let’s look at the Academy’s recent financials, which may be relevant to what’s going on behind-the-scenes:

According to the Academy’s Form 990 tax return for fiscal 2014 (the most recent available online), its expenses exceeded revenues by $2.31 million in the year ending June 30, 2014, up from a $1.72-million shortfall in fiscal 2013. The Form 990 for fiscal 2013 shows that expenses exceeded revenues in the previous fiscal year (2012) by $2.27 million.

This occurred under the auspices of Carmine Branagan, who was elevated from interim to permanent director in December 2008, after having orchestrated the deplorable deaccession of important works by Frederic Edwin Church and Sanford Robinson Gifford (a story that I broke here). Contrary to professional guidelines (and incurring the censure of the Association of Art Museum Directors), the art proceeds were to be used for programs, operations, fundraising initiatives and gallery improvements, rather than acquisitions.

We can only wonder whether the Academy will resort to the same discredited expedient to address its financial shortfalls yet again.

That’s a question for Dewey, once he issues the long-awaited press release…maybe tomorrow.

NOTE: I’ll be away for much of tomorrow, so I may tweet the news (if there is any) before I blog about it.

an ArtsJournal blog