It’s official: The NY State Board of Regents’ Cultural Education Committee this afternoon voted in favor of revised rules (described here), which would prohibit most museums and historical societies in the state from using deaccession proceeds to defray debts, operating expenses, and most capital expenses. The proposed revisions will go before the full board at its meeting tomorrow. [UPDATE: James Dawson, chairman of the committee, told me that the committee’s vote was unanimous and that tomorrow’s approval by the full board is a certainty.]
This reverses the original proposed amendment, which would have allowed such proceeds to be used to satisfy debts. This was to be considered as a last resort, to forestall bankruptcy proceedings that could result in liquidation of collections.
In fact, even the most financially desperate institutions do have other assets besides collections that, in worst-case scenarios, could be exploited before collections are touched—endowment funds and real estate, for example. Rather than liquidating collections, failed institutions should, if possible, transfer objects held in the public trust to other public institutions.
We hope, even in these challenging times, it never comes to that.
Speaking of which, the board of LA MOCA meets tomorrow to discuss how to address that institution’s financial and administrative crisis. Selling works from the collection is one of several ideas that have reportedly been proposed.
In light of unequivocably strong statements deploring the recent National Academy sales by both the Association of Art Museum Directors and the American Association of Museums, selling art to address operating deficits should be a non-starter. Excommunication by its professional peers could only exacerbate MOCA’s woes.