Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"This is a significant ruling that will have an effect on museum management beyond cy prés petitions, which are relatively rare."

"The court’s treatment of deaccession as a non-starter is a judicial adoption of a principle that is codified only in the regulations of the New York Board of Regents.  That is notable in and of itself."

 Nicholas O'Donnell on the Corcoran decision.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tell me again about the public trust (selections from The Art Institute of Chicago’s renowned photo collection edition)

Speaking of the inviolable principle that museums hold their works for future generations and they therefore must never be sold, even should the heavens fall, Phillips is about to sell 117 works from the Art Institute of Chicago's photo collection.

One.  Hundred.  Seventeen.

How can that be?

Weren't those 117 objects that, having fallen under the aegis of a museum, were held in the public trust, to be accessible to present and future generations?

Isn't this 117 opportunities -- 117!! -- for potential donors to say "Why should I give this to you? What guarantee do I have that you're not going to sell this tomorrow?"

How can this be okay -- not even worthy of a mention in the press aside from the auction house's own press release -- but it's not okay for the Corcoran to sell work in order to keep from disappearing?

It can't be a matter of the public trust -- or else both sales would be wrong.  And it can't be a concern about future donors -- or else, again, both sales would be wrong.

So what is it (setting aside as possible answers "common sense" and "the coin of the realm")?  It has to be a value judgment that adding a few more works to the Art Institute's already enormous collection is more important than keeping the Corcoran (or the National Academy, or Fisk University, etc.) in existence.

But what sense does that make?

Did the Deaccession Police Kill the Corcoran?

In his decision today, the Judge noted that, "throughout this proceeding, [opponents of the plan] have argued that the Corcoran can address this [financial] shortfall by selling some of the more than 17,000 pieces in the Corcoran's collection."  But he said he was "less optimistic ... about the likelihood of success" of this proposal.

Why?  Because SANCTIONS.  "This proposal," he wrote, "has a serious downside.  It is undisputed that the AAM and the AAMD can impose, and have imposed, sanctions on museums that have sold art to pay for operating expenses."  He quotes the Director of the National Academy Museum as describing the effect of these policies as:  "sanctions, and you're dead."  "Thus," he wrote, "this Court believes there are substantial risks associated with the Intervenors' proposal to de-accession art to pay for the renovation of the Flagg Building and to pay some of the Corcoran's other operating expenses."

I hope they're happy at Deaccession Police headquarters.

BREAKING: Corcoran Cy Pres Relief Granted

Story here.  More later, after I've had a chance to review the opinion.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"In a complaint filed in federal court in Illinois ..."

". . . the three artists seek damages for the 'blatant misappropriation' of a piece they painted collaboratively in Buenos Aires in 2010."

Street artists sue filmmaker Terry Gilliam.

"Our job is to advance the best interests of the foundation and its charitable mission."

"The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation has appealed a decision by a Florida court to award $24.6 million to three trustees who had administered the artist’s estate."

"The suggestion that the art was ever at imminent risk of being liquidated without the city’s consent was merely a political expedient."

"The city used this narrative to build an artificial sense of urgency around adopting this particular solution to the exclusion of more thoughtful approaches."

Kristi Culpepper on what's really happening in Detroit.

"I think about what I did every day, and I find it hard to live with what I did because it still haunts me."

A plea deal in the Ai Weiwei broken vase case:

"Maximo Caminero, a 51-year-old artist from the Dominican Republic, will be on probation for 18 months and serve 100 hours of community service by teaching children how to paint. Mr. Caminero also must pay restitution of $10,000, the appraised value of the vase he dropped on the floor of the Pérez Art Museum Miami on Feb. 16 in what he said was a political act."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Under Fire (UPDATED)

Deborah Solomon had a big piece in Sunday's Times on the Delaware Museum deaccessioning.  Unlike some previous efforts in the paper, this one just assumes the sale is the Worst Thing Ever, adopts the AAMD point of view completely, and then proceeds from there.  (You guys, the new director of the museum can't name a work he likes in the collection.  LOL!!!!)

But when it comes to explaining why the sale is the Worst Thing Ever, we get just one paragraph: 

"Selling artwork to fund operations (as opposed to acquisitions) is widely viewed as self-defeating, like burning down your house to heat the kitchen. Museums are supposed to safeguard art for future generations, not cash in or out. And as the sale of the Holman Hunt proved, it doesn’t always go as hoped."

The third point is neither here nor there, and the second I've dealt with hundreds of times (museums do not safeguard (all) art for future generations; they sell work all the time and it's nothing to be so touchy about). But I want to focus here on the first one -- selling artwork to fund operations is like burning down your house to heat the kitchen -- because that's a talking point the Deaccession Police love to trot out but, like a lot of their other talking points, it doesn't stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. Selling a work of art from a museum's vast collection is not like burning down your house at all. It's more like selling, say, a fork from your kitchen drawer, or an old blanket that has been up in the attic for years, or maybe even in some cases your 52-inch flat screen television: it might really hurt, and you'd hate to part with it, but if that's what it took to keep you from losing the house, then you'd do it in a heartbeat. In none of these cases -- Randolph College, Delaware, the National Academy, etc. -- is anyone's house in danger of burning down.

But for my money, the big news came in a related interview Solomon gave with WNYC Radio in which she (a) fully endorsed the Ellis Rule and (b) came out in favor of the Randolph College deaccessioning. At around the 3-minute mark, she says:

"To me deaccessioning does make sense, though, when a museum is able to sell a painting to another museum, so that the picture stays on public view.  We had that this year when a George Bellows sold by Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia to the National Gallery of Art in London. It's the first time that an American painting entered the collection of the National Gallery in London. So that strikes me as a win-win situation."

Yes, it is.

UPDATE: In my haste this morning, I forgot to include the link to the radio piece. Fixed now.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

If a monkey takes a selfie ... (UPDATED 2X)

... who owns the copyright?

UPDATE:  AFC comments: "Yes, this is silly, but it actually seems like this could have far-reaching impact on other photographers; after all, Gregory Crewdson, for one, doesn't press the shutter for any of his photographs."

UPDATE 2:  Ann Althouse:  "Give it up, Slater, and embrace the publicity you're getting at this, your moment of greatest fame. Move on, photograph something else, and let us like you at this point — perhaps the only point — when we know you. Surrender gracefully to the Mona Lisa of Macaques and and let everyone... everyone... smile."

Sarah Jeong:  "
How is an aspiring monkey photographer supposed to make it if she can’t stop the rampant internet piracy of monkey works?"

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Maybe we should try sanctioning somebody

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that the Hall Monitors didn't know how to feel about the Corcoran matter. Now, along comes Lee Rosenbaum in the WSJ to argue that the Judge should reject the Corcoran's proposal ... but at the same time she doesn't seem too impressed with the alternate plan suggested by those opposing the petition.  Or, as Hall of Famer Kriston Capps put it on Twitter: "[Rosenbaum's] Corcoran takeway:  Don't go with the NGA-GWU plan, but also don't go with the alternative?  So ... what?"

Sunday, August 03, 2014

A Decision in the Rauschenberg Foundation Fee Dispute

$24.6 million to the three trustees.  Story here.  Background here.