This is an honest question though it will undoubtedly be read as argumentative. For some time, the vocal opponents of deaccessioning have pointed to the AAMD as the final word on proper museum conduct. This weekend, The New York Times ran a story on museums and pre-packaged shows sponsored by corporate collections. The Times was careful to make this point:
The Association of Art Museum Directors has no policy governing shows organized by corporations and “would not be against it,” said Michael Conforti, the association’s president, “as long as the people involved felt comfortable themselves that a show complied with their curatorial standards.”
And several of the museum directors who had allowed pre-packaged shows to be displayed in their institutions defended them on the grounds that good art was being brought to more venues where it could be seen by more people. This line of argument is, of course, the lynch-pin of the anti-deaccessioning creed: art is held in museums as a public trust.
So far, so good. Then, earlier this week, Tyler Green writes in high dudgeon a post with this characterization of MoMA because it had accepted a show sponsored by UBS:
Museum of Modern Art likely enhanced the value of a corporate art collection by showing it in galleries that should have been given to the museum’s distinguished curators for a legitimate, scholarly presentation,
The question is simply why there’s such anger. The AAMD doesn’t see the practice as beyond the boundaries of a museum’s function of showing art to the citizenry. The reflexive characterization of the corporate collection as some sort of art fund methodically plotting museum shows to raise the value of its–presumed–third-rate art isn’t established in any way.
As the story shows, the value of these collections for their corporations is much more in terms of public relations. Whether the enterprise owns the art or underwrites the exhibit, the dollars spent are marketing dollars, not art investment capital.
And the value of a work of art is hardly elevated in direct proportion to its touring schedule. Besides, far more value is added to privately owned pieces that appear in important museum shows. Yes, those shows are curated by disinterested museum experts; but those experts are also interested in many other things beyond the simple scholarship. Museum professionals are worldly folks.
The funny thing about Robin Pogrebin’s article is that it goes to great lengths to subvert this assumption. She demonstrates there are museums whose mission is well-served by the pre-packaged shows.
Weekend Roundup (Modern Art Notes)
And Now, An Exhibition from Our Sponsor (New York Times)