Remember we told you about Montclair Art Museum’s (MAM) plan to deaccession pieces from its collection? Well, an opinion piece that followed in the Wall Street Journal set off controversy with an assertion that MAM’s actions would be “another sorry example of an institution cashing out on art in the public trust.”
Lora Urbanelli, director of the Montclair Art Museum, says deaccessioning is not a dirty word. It’s something that’s done by practically every museum. Doing it correctly means that monies from the sale of the deaccessioned pieces go directly toward the acquisition of new art. “We’re doing what we need to do to ride out the recession and make it to our centennial. But to suggest that the deaccessioning was being done as a means to securitize a bond was entirely untrue.” Urbanelli adds that everything being done in regards to deaccessioning is in line with the American Association of Museum Directors’ guidelines. “Whenever you sell a work of art, you use the funds to buy another work of art. This is the guarantee you make to the public. You don’t sell paintings to pay the electric bill.”
MAM received support from the Los Angeles Times and Modern Art Notes in response to the WSJ article.
Urbanelli says the pieces that will be auctioned by Christie’s have been chosen carefully and for specific reasons. “You look at the collection and evaluate whether you need to keep a piece by an artist that’s not as good as the others you own, a piecethat has been sitting in storage. You consider if it makes more sense to sell it and acquire something that is better for the collection.”
Most of the items up for auction have never been shown. One example is a handful of rugs that have sat in storage (the museum does not have textile curators). “Long ago it was decided that MAM is an American Art museum, so some pieces don’t fit that mission.”
The first of the sales is May 13, when the fragile untitled Jackson Pollock drip drawing goes on the block. The last sale is June 10.