Elyse Topalian, the Metropolitan Museum’s vice president for communications, responds to Brooklyn’s Costume “Transfer” to the Met: A Huge Deaccession-in-Disguise:
The Metropolitan Museum and the Brooklyn Museum have openly discussed, with both press and the public, the decision to sell certain pieces that would not come to the Met because they duplicated items already in the Met’s collection or did not meet our collecting criteria, and it was made clear that any proceeds would go to the Brooklyn Museum’s acquisitions fund.
We refer you to Eve Kahn‘s New York Times column [scroll down] from Oct. 30, 2009, and a New York Post article dated Oct. 4, 2009, as well as a symposium [my links, not hers] held last summer at both the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum. The symposium, in particular, included description and discussion of the decision-making process.
The decisions about which items would be sold were made following a major Mellon Grant assessment that predated the agreement between the two institutions, as well as a complete item-by-item assessment by the Met’s Costume Institute that was conducted after the agreement went into effect.
NOTE FROM CULTUREGRRL: I would only observe that the original announcement of the costume transfer—which mentioned only collection-sharing, not collection-selling—-predated the NY Post article by 10 months. (I linked to the Post article, to my knowledge the earliest published mention of disposals, in my CultureGrrl post yesterday.)
The above-linked announcement of the speakers and planned topics for the symposium, which took place less than six months ago, made no mention of planned sales—only the “historic collection-sharing collaboration” and the “innovative arrangement” between the Met and the Brooklyn Museum. I gather (from Elyse’s comments) that the actual discussion did get into disposal details.
Clearly these plans weren’t to remain secret forever: The items are being offered openly at public auction. What was missing, though, was complete candor and transparency from the beginning.
No one troubled to send me a corrective note in December 2008, when I wrongly inferred from the press release that the Brooklyn/Met deal was a straight transfer that involved no sales.
I regret the error.