Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art Sends 32 Paintings to the Auction Block

In three sessions over two days starting Jan. 27, the Cleveland Museum of Art will offer more than two dozen European old master paintings in the largest sell-off from its collection in more than a half-century. The 30 lots from Cleveland, with 32 works overall, will be part of an auction of "Important Old Master Paintings" at Sotheby's in New York.

"These are pictures that probably don't have a place in the Cleveland Museum of Art context, but could have a happy life elsewhere," C. Griffith Mann, the museum's chief curator, said of the works to be sold.

Some of the hottest recent controversies in the art world have involved cash-strapped institutions selling artworks to pay operating or other expenses. But the Cleveland sale is unlikely to cause a ruckus. Most of the individual works to be sold are by minor masters; few have been exhibited in recent years.

Sotheby's estimates the total value of the Cleveland works to range from $706,000 to $1,022,000. The auction could attract bargain hunters; out of the 30 lots, 21 are priced with low-end estimates of $10,000 or less.

For more about the this sale and the CMA collection, see The Plain Dealer.


Anonymous said...

Recent art sales by museums that have caused controversy have been sales to fund operating costs, which the Association of Art Museum Directors states are unethical and against policy for its members. From the AAMD website:

"Deaccessioning is practiced to refine and enhance the quality, use, and character of an institution’s holdings. There are two fundamental principles that are always observed whenever an AAMD member art museum deaccessions an object:

• The decision to deaccession is made solely to improve the quality, scope, and appropriateness of the collection, and to support the mission and long-term goals of the museum;

• Proceeds from a deaccessioned work are used only to acquire other works of art—the proceeds are never used as operating funds, to build a general endowment, or for any other expenses.

Funds from deaccessioning can be invested in an acquisitions endowment earmarked to support the long-term growth of a museum’s collection."

So, the question is not how popular the artwork is, or how important the artists are, but how the funds from the sale will be used. So, if Cleveland will be investing the funds back into their collection, there's no problem with them selling the work.