31/3/14 - Deaccessioning - Delaware Art Museum - Even American museums which practice deaccessioning follow a golden rule : the revenue from the sale must go toward new acquisitions.
This rule, already broken recently by the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia, which sold a George Bellows painting to the National Gallery in London (see news item of 10/2/14) - is about to be violated this time by Delaware Art Museum. Its Board of Administration has indeed voted the sale of four works (not yet announced) for which the 30 million dollar estimate will be used to reimburse its debts ($19.8 million) and recreate an endowment fund. According to the museum, it had only two solutions : close its doors or sell its works. What it omits from saying, as pointed out by several American newspapers, is that this debt is the result of excessive and poorly financed renovation expenses incurred in 2005...
The Delaware Art Museum owns notably a rich 19th century American art collection as well as an ensemble of English Pre-Raphaelites. None of the donations or bequests received by the establishment will be sold, which does not make the matter any the less scandalous.
The Association of Art Museum Directors, an association of 240 directors of major American museums stated that "The AAMD firmly believes that there are viable alternatives to this course of action and that deaccessioning works from the collection is not necessary to sustain the Museum’s operations." It adds : "Furthermore, treating works of art from a museum’s collection as financial assets not only damages the museum taking such action, but also adversely affects the field as a whole."
If the museum persists in going ahead, it will no doubt be disciplined by the association, with the remaining members ceasing any further collaboration or loans. The Maier Museum of Art was sanctioned in this manner after selling the Bellows.