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Over the past few months, there have been a series of sales that have sent the art world into an uproar. There was the planned Jackson Pollock auction by Syracuse’s Everson Museum of Art, decried by the Los Angeles Times’ Christopher Knight as ‘inexcusable;’ two rounds of sell-offs at the Brooklyn Museum; and, most recently, a planned sale at the Baltimore Museum of Art that has resulted in multiple resignations and several rescinded gifts.
Selling off works — whether it’s to keep pandemic-thrashed museums afloat, or to fund diversification of the institution — has never been considered particularly desirable, but the Association of Art Museum Directors relaxed the rules earlier this year in order to keep museums above water.
But is there any good way to do that? Some critics of deaccessioning, like Knight, suggest that selling works off to wealthy buyers essentially privatizes what was once a public good; others, like critic Tyler Green, suggest that those funds should instead be raised from donors; and yet others, like Art Newspaper, are concerned the current wave of deaccessions may flood the already-crisis-battered market with “works by dead white male artists.”
On Wednesday, two hours before the planned auction at Sotheby's, the BMA pulled the works from auction. As of press time, the sale is on hold.
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