Friday, January 22, 2010

Museums and Lawmakers Mull Sales of Art

The NY Times reported on a recent meeting around recent legislation barring museums from selling off parts of its collection to pay the bills. The recession has forced some institutions to do that — or at least consider it — and members of the New York State Legislature have been trying to draft a bill that would regulate such deaccessioning of artworks and artifacts.

On Thursday representatives from museums in the New York City area came together to debate the issue in a State Assembly Hearing Room in Lower Manhattan — a round-table meeting billed as the first discussion of deaccessioning among state policymakers and museum professionals in a public setting.

Specifically, the meeting was called to give those professionals a chance to weigh in on, and ask questions about, proposed legislation drafted by Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky — in collaboration with the New York State Board of Regents and the Museum Association of New York — that would prohibit museums from using proceeds from the sale of artworks “for traditional and customary operating expenses” (as opposed to new acquisitions, a purpose that is generally considered acceptable).

Introduced to the assembly in March, the bill was prompted by concern that the recession is pushing museums to consider extreme measures. The discussion has noted a number of recent cases, including the National Academy Museum’s sale in 2008 of two Hudson River School paintings to cover operating costs and Brandeis University’s announcement last year that it would close its Rose Art Museum in Waltham, Mass., and sell the collection because of its declining endowment, a plan that the university has since reconsidered. Read more here.

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