The Association of Art Museum Directors has now joined the American Association of Museums in reasserting the core principle that museums’ art-sale proceeds should be used to enhance the collection, not to defray operating expenses or debts.
These restatements came on the heels of Judith Dobrzynski‘s recent NY Times Op-Ed piece, in which she argued that, subject to certain limitations and possible oversight by professsional organizations like AAM and AAMD, museums should be allowed to use deaccession proceeds to help resolve their financial crises. My own NY Times Op-Ed of four years ago had argued the opposite and also asserted:
Legislators and government regulators should hold museums to the often ignored standards for disposal spelled out in the published guidelines of the Association of Art Museum Directors.
That’s a goal that the Brodsky Bill, pending before the NY State Legislature, would help to effectuate.
A few days after the publication of Judy’s piece, AAM weighed in on the question, in response to my inquiry:
When it comes to deaccessioning, the ethics of the field are not broken—and we therefore would not support efforts to “fix” them.
AAMD indicated to me that it might have something to say after its mid-winter meeting in Sarasota, where its Deaccessions Task Force would be working on possible revisions to the guidelines on art sales. That meeting has now concluded.
This press release just in from AAMD:
AAMD’s Deaccessioning Task Force, chaired by Dan Monroe (Peabody Essex Museum) and William Eiland (Georgia Museum of Art), met to continue its review of the association’s policies on this issue. The discussion reaffirmed that art museums exist for the care and interpretation of art collections—collections that are the cornerstone of research, exhibition, and public programming.
The task force, therefore, reaffirmed the principle that works cannot be deaccessioned to provide funds for operating or capital purposes [emphasis added] and such funds may only be used for the refinement and expansion of the collection. The Task Force anticipates completing its work in summer 2010 and issuing an updated policy.
“AAMD’s deaccessioning policy is a core principle for the art museum field,” said William Eiland, co-chair of the task force and director of the Georgia Museum of Art. “We believe that the actions we have taken over the last year to uphold this principle have had a positive impact on museum collecting and deaccessioning practices.”
Directors retain tough stance on funds realized from deaccessioning.