The deaccessioning wars have opened a new battlefield in Long Beach, California where the local museum is having trouble meeting its bond covenants. The city, which owns a large portion of the museum’s collection as well as the building is already strapped and they’re talking about selling pictures to settle the $3 million debt that comes due in September.
The LA Times quotes the museum’s Executive Director, Ron Nelson:
“We’re fighting tooth and nail against a hostile takeover,” he said. “If the city prevails, the security of our collection, support for ongoing educational programs and future donations and gifts — all will be lost.”
The quandary, of course, is the fact that the museum actually holds some art that is highly valued at the moment in the form of a cache of Expressionist works by Kandinsky, Feininger and von Jawlensky. Culture Monster‘s Christopher Knight expresses his usual even-handedness by comparing the threat to sell some of the city’s works as a decision similar to Josef Stalin’s sale of works from the Hermitage in the 1930s:
Mellon bought 21 Hermitage paintings in 1930 and 1931, among them Raphael’s “Alba Madonna,” Botticelli’s “Adoration of the Magi,” Titian’s “Venus With a Mirror” and Van Eyck’s “Annunciation.” Later faced with tax problems and threatened impeachment, Mellon accelerated his aim to build a National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to polish up his legacy. The Hermitage purchases posthumously became a core of the museum’s collection.
Stalin, though, didn’t make out quite so well. A year after the sales, the money (some $7 million) was spent, the Soviet Union was still broke, the state’s five-year plans weren’t panning out, brutal purges were being planned — and the art was gone, never to return. […]
Long Beach, Meet Josef Stalin (Culture Monster)