Donn Zaretsky, author of the ArtLawBlog, is the unsung hero of the deaccessioning wars–the ongoing debate launched by the National Academy’s sale of two paintings recently. Zaretsky is consistently the most interesting voice in this debate because he applies unrelenting logic to a lot of emotional positions. Here he is inverting the strict constructionist position:
“The institution is there to safeguard the art. The art is not there to support the institution.” Unless, of course, as I keep saying, the selling off is to buy different art. Then it’s not chipping away at the institution. The institution, apparently, is not there to safeguard that art. When it comes to buying more art, suddenly the institution doesn’t exist to safeguard the existing collection. But as soon as anyone suggests using those proceeds for any other purpose, then that existing collection becomes untouchable. You wouldn’t want the institution to be chipped.
UCLA’s Mark Kleiman: “when museum directors gang up on one of their number for selling some inventory to dig her institution out of a financial hole, they’re acting like a bunch of snobbish jerks.”
Or here he is quoting Michael O’Hare:
“I defy any reader of this [anti-deaccessionist] discourse to infer a goal behind the assertions and pronouncing that could be stated in public with a straight face. My best try: ‘the purpose of art is to be in a museum as soon as possible and to stay in that museum forever’, with the important corollary ‘in a museum does not mean “on display” or accessible to the public!’, and museum practice should be evaluated insofar as it serves that end.”
But I’m not doing his commentary justice. Got to The Artlawblog and educate yourself.
Update: Tyler Green would be more impressive if he didn’t get so huffy every time someone pointed out an inconsistency. Accusing a critic of intellectual dishonesty is going too far.