Monday, October 16, 2017

All in the timing

Artnews reports that dealer Gary Nader will sell $100 million worth of works from his collection in order to fund a proposed museum in Florida to house said collection.

I assume no one could have a problem with this.  It's his work, and if that's what it takes to get the museum built, great.

But if he first donated the work to the museum ... and the museum sold the works to, say, raise money for construction of the building ... then the sale would suddenly become unethical and the Deaccession Police would be on to their usual carping.

But the end result is identical in the two cases.  How can one be totally noncontroversial and the other deeply unethical?

The trial in the 5Pointz VARA case is about to get underway

Story here.  Background here.

Friday, October 13, 2017

"Threats of violence in response to controversial art are abhorrent."

"They can’t be allowed to dictate what art the public is allowed to see, lest a few deranged would-be saboteurs are encouraged to shut down exhibits at their whim. In an age of social-media campaigns that can reach millions in an instant, the problem is only going to get worse."

The New York Times editorial board:  The Guggenheim Surrenders on Free Expression.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Rules and Norms (UPDATED)

Felix Salmon, generally the most articulate defender of the anti-deaccessioning position, has a piece in The New Yorker on the Berkshire Museum controversy, which then led to a (short but) interesting discussion between him and Deaccessioning Hall of Fame scholar-in-residence Brian Frye on Twitter.

Salmon says "I would really love to see some of the anti-anti-deaccessioning crowd [are we a 'crowd'? -- dz] come out and say yes, this deaccessioning is bad."  To which Frye responds:  "I think you make a pretty good case this one is a bad decision on the merits. But I don't think [the AAMD] rules are an appropriate solution."

Not surprisingly, I'm with the scholar-in-residence on this one.  Most importantly, I think this is exactly how the conversation is supposed to go.  Salmon's basic position is:  this deaccessioning is a bad idea, the museum's financial condition is not so bad, they don't *need* to do this.  He may be right about that (I take no position on it) but the implication is that, if the facts were otherwise, if the museum's financial condition was sufficiently desperate or the need could be otherwise sufficiently demonstrated, then the deaccessioning would be justified.  That just is the position of those of us in the anti-anti-deaccessioning crowd.

Contrast Salmon's approach with that of a typical member of the Deaccessioning Police like Christopher Knight, who thinks that, no matter what -- no matter how bad the institution's financial condition, no matter how great the need -- deaccessioning is always wrong in every case.  Better to close the museum than sell any work.

UPDATE:  On cue, a member of the Deaccession Police comes along to remind Salmon that, at the end of the day, he is part of the anti-anti-deaccessioning crowd himself.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Heckler's Veto (UPDATED)

Guggenheim Pulls Controversial Animal Artworks From China Show Over Threats of Violence.

UPDATE:  Ai Weiwei:  "When an art institution cannot exercise its right for freedom of speech, that is tragic for a modern society. Pressuring museums to pull down artwork shows a narrow understanding about not only animal rights but also human rights."