The Association of Art Museum Directors today announced sanctions against Randolph College’s Maier Museum, Lynchburg, VA, for selling George Bellows’ “Men of the Docks“ for $25.5 million “to use the proceeds to support the College’s operating budget,” in violation of professional museum standards.
AAMD has directed its members “to suspend any loans of works of art to and any collaboration on exhibitions and programs with the Maier Museum of Art.”
However, there are no words of condemnation (let alone punitive action) against the National Gallery, London in AAMD’s statement. That institution, directed by Nicholas Penny (who was previously senior curator of sculpture and decorative arts at the National Gallery, Washington, and was therefore well aware of AAMD’s strictures), was the the purchaser of the Bellows.
As I wrote here: “The National Gallery, as the other side of a transaction almost universally condemned by its American colleagues, deserves a share of the blame.” True, the National Gallery is not a member of AAMD, but neither is the Maier Museum.
In its statement, AAMD “urges the College to stop this practice [of monetizing the collection].” Randolph’s president, Bradley Bateman, had recently stated (in a letter to friends of the college) that “we still plan to sell Edward Hicks’ “Peaceable Kingdom” and Ernest Hennings’ “Through the Arroyo” at a later date.” (Already sold at Christie’s in 2008 was Rufino Tamayo‘s, “Trovador,” 1945, which fetched $7.21 million.)
Proceeding with those sales would only dig the Maier deeper into the hole it has created for itself in the professional museum community.