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NPR’s Report on the National Academy Sales

Graham W.J. Beal, director, Detroit Institute of Arts

Jim Zarroli, a business and economics reporter for National Public Radio (he’s their Madoff man), did a segment today on museums’ financial difficulties, with an emphasis on the National Academy situation. You can both listen to the audio and read the summary text for “Museums Exhibit Signs Of Economic Distress,” here.

The piece includes comments by Carmen Branagan, director of the Academy; Bruce Altshuler, head of New York University’s museum studies program; Graham Beal, director of the Detroit Institute of Arts; and Tom Finkelpearl, director of the Queens Museum of Art.

The I-didn’t-know-that moment came when Branagan commented that she “actually worked gratis [at the National Academy] for many months.” She started there only last July.

Beal, whose own institution is in financial distress, cemented his status as the field’s most articulate spokesperson against desperation deaccessions. He described the wrongheadedness of selling art to pay operating expenses this way:

You’re really selling part of what you are. The institution is there to safeguard the art. The art is not there to support the institution.

His stance carries all the more weight in light of the fact that his institution is operating “under considerable financial stress,” as he candidly concedes on the museum’s website.

Zarroli concludes:

The question is how far they [museums] should go to survive and whether they can
do it without compromising the trust the public has placed in them.

an ArtsJournal blog