The New York Times ran a very tendentious story about European museum deaccessioning miscasting most of the examples to suggest governments were selling the family silver. Later in the story , we get some of the true facts. Some works could not be donated to museums. Others were received as collateral. And so on. But the real issue within the deaccessioning debate isn’t whether works of art are held in the public trust but what the public trust is capable of holding. Here we begin with a Times scare quote and move on to some more substantive observations:
“Politicians who are thinking about selling need to realize that once a work is in private hands that possibly it will never be seen again,” Ms. Heal said.
Supporters of the sales argue, though, that there is a role for them because museums typically can display only about 10 percent of their art, and storing works is costly. Some French lawmakers, for example, are raising the prospect of selling some of the 500,000 objects in storage at the Louvre, using an American model that would limit museums to shedding duplicate works that are not part of a core collection and using the proceeds to pay for future acquisitions.
“French museums have so many pieces in their collection that they are not able to exhibit it,” said Guillaume Cerutti, chief executive of Sotheby’s in France. “Museum subsidies have dried up and the first victim is art acquisitions.
Seeing a Cash Cow in Museums’ Precious Art (NYTimes.com)