The battles over deaccessioning continue, though hardly in the ways that many would have anticipated. The LA Times’s Mike Boehm unleashes an interesting case on the Culture Monster blog. The Orange County Museum of Art has changed its focus and, in so doing, decided to sell some Californian artists to a private collector, who has already loaned them out a museum in Nevada. But instead of being satisfied that the works had found good stewardship, some other museums are complaining that they were not given the opportunity to pay OCMA more for the trove of 18 paintings:
OCMA director Dennis Szakacs said the paintings from the early 1900s fetched a total of $963,000 in late March from a Laguna Beach collector whose identity the museum promised not to disclose. Szakacs defended the transaction.
“We were exchanging a high level of transparency available in an auction for the desirability of keeping these paintings with a local collector,” he said. “It’s quite possible we could have made more money, but we chose to keep them in the community. I think we made absolutely the correct decision.” […]
That doesn’t wash with Bolton Colburn, director of the Laguna Art Museum, and Jean Stern, director of the Irvine Museum. Both say that if they’d known the California Impressionists were for sale, they would have sought donors to bankroll bids. The genre, often called “plein air painting,” is important to both museums.
“It’s just sad,” Colburn said, especially because the paintings, which include prime pieces by early 20th century artists William Wendt and Granville Redmond, represent the birth of the Orange County art scene in the Laguna Beach art colony and were long housed at the Laguna Art Museum.
“This was probably the most significant symbolic part of the collection,” Colburn said. Most of the sold works were donated decades ago by the artists or their friends and heirs, he said, but went to OCMA during a contentious 1996 merger. At the time, the Laguna Art Museum joined the Newport Harbor Art Museum, creating a new entity — OCMA. After a lawsuit and public outcry in Laguna, the new museum disgorged its Laguna branch, and a rechartered Laguna Art Museum was launched in 1997
OCMA Sells Paintings to a Private Collector, Prompting Criticism (Culture Monster)