Lindsay Pollock charts in The Art Newspaper the recent museum sales of American art during May’s lackluster American paintings sale cycle in New York. Christie’s has the bulk of the deaccessioned work:
The sale included 45 lots from US institutions (the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Montclair Art Museum and the New Britain Museum of American Art among them) accounting for nearly a third of the sale.
“For decades American museums sold very little American art. They felt required to hold on to everything they were given,” said Christie’s American painting director, Eric Widing. “There has been a cultural change and museums recognise you don’t have to keep everything in the basement. Scholarship has made the process much easier and the art is much more valuable.”
Results were mixed. Indianapolis fared poorly with a group of over-estimated Western paintings. Canvases by Ernest Martin Hennings, Walter Ufer and Olaf Carl Seltzer were among seven lots that failed to sell.
Montclair fared better. A blue and green 1909 William James Glackens, Wickford Harbor, Rhode Island, at the museum since 1956 and exhibited in 1994 as part of a show billed as “Masterworks from the Montclair Art Museum”, fetched $458,500, above a $300,000 estimate. The museum wound up selling 23 lots (of 29 offered) for $2.8m. “The purpose was to build an endowment fund dedicated to purchasing works of art,” said Michael Gillespie, the museum’s communications director.
The Hirshhorn sold three paintings by Philadelphia artist Thomas Eakins, plus a fourth at Sotheby’s. An athletic nude, Study for William Rush and his Model, around 1908, fetched $122,500, above the $120,000 high estimate.