A.D. Coleman on his Photocritic International site points out that no one in the art press is asking direct questions about the upcoming Polaroid sale at Sotheby’s. Coleman refers readers to David A. Ross’s comments on a Wall Street Journal bankruptcy law blog post about the Polaroid collection where the former director of the Whitney acknowledges that there was discussion of making a gift of the Polaroid collection in the late 1990s. Here’s the relevant portion of Ross’s comment:
I know this as there was a move afoot during the 90’s to donate the “collection” to the Whitney Museum of American Art while I was its director, and I recall that the restrictions of selling the work led the already cash-starved company to consider the gift as it was consistent with the agreements that Polaroid had entered into with the participating artists.
What Ross supports suggests here is the idea that Polaroid does not have title to the photographs, so they cannot should not be sold. Those who object to the sale say the works were gifts on long-term loan from the artists who created them. Coleman claims, the bankruptcy of Polaroid has not changed the property rights of the artists. (Update: It has been pointed out that property rights are exactly what a bankruptcy judge has the authority to change. In this case, the judge cleared those rights so the photos can be sold.)
But what Mr. Ross does not fully explain is why the gift never went through. Was it Polaroid that pulled out or the museum that would not take the work?
Polaroid Collection: Update 13 (Photocritic International)