Following news that the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York, would deaccession a Jackson Pollock at auction, another institution has said it will sell works from its holdings. Today, the New York Times reported that the Brooklyn Museum in New York is selling 12 works from its permanent collection at Christie’s to raise capital for the maintenance of its collection. Works by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Gustave Courbet, and Camille Corot, among others, will be sold across Christie’s upcoming Old Masters and European Art sales on October 15 at the house’s New York headquarters. Other works from the Brooklyn Museum will be sold in two online sales, with bidding open from October 1–20.
Christie’s confirmed the total pre-sale estimated value of the 12 works is $2.3 million–$3.5 million. All of the works from the Brooklyn Museum collection come to the market with guarantees.
In April, amid financial strain during the coronavirus pandemic, the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) issued an update to its standard code for deaccessions, saying that museums could now sell works from their permanent holdings in order to fund collection upkeep. Historically, the AAMD has maintained that all proceeds from museum sales should be used for new acquisitions (although the restriction is not legally mandated). The window to sell works for collection management is open until April 10, 2022.
Museum deaccessions have long been met with public criticism. Anne Pasternak, the Brooklyn Museum’s director, told The New York Times that, while the decision to deaccession works was difficult, it is the practical move to ensure the collection’s longevity. Pasternak reported the institution’s goal is to establish a $40 million fund, generating an annual $2 million to pay for the management of the 160,000-item collection.
The sale is part of the museum’s previously initiated collection review. Last year, the Brooklyn Museum sold a major Francis Bacon painting titled Pope (ca. 1958) from the artist’s Tangiers period at Sotheby’s in New York in order to raise money to support its collection. The work was gifted to the museum in 1981. It sold at its low estimate for $6.6 million.
Lucas Cranach the Elder’s 16th-century painting Lucretia is among the top lots headed to sale, valued at $1.2 million to $1.8 million. The Cranach will be sold alongside others by Donato de’ Bardi, Giovanni dal Ponte, Francesco Botticini, and a portrait attributed to Lorenzo Costa in Christie’s Old Masters evening sale. Another set of works including those by Gustave Courbet, Camille Corot, Hendrik Willem Mesdag, and Charles-François Daubigny will sell in Christie’s European Art sale on the same day. Corot’s 19th-century portrait of a woman, titled Italienne debout tenant une cruches, is among the highest-valued lots of the ones headed to the European Art sale. It is expected to achieve a price between $200,000–$300,000.
“Led by a remarkable depiction of Lucretia by Lucas Cranach the Elder, we expect this consignment to generate considerable interest from collectors who will not only respond to the paintings’ great quality, but will also be reassured by their distinguished provenance,” said Joshua Glazer, Specialist of Old Master Paintings at Christie’s New York.
The Brooklyn Museum is not the first to reveal plans to deaccession major works this month. Two weeks ago, the Everson Museum announced that it will sell a Pollock drip abstraction at Christie’s—a move that has generated controversy. The work is expected to fetch a price between $12 million to $18 million, and is being sold to diversify the museum’s holdings. Yet it is not the only deaccesioning to have caused scandal in recent years. In 2018, the Berkshire Museum raised $40 million in sales at Sotheby’s for 13 out of 40 artworks planned to be sold to fund museum operations. The Berkshire Museum sale was greeted with a large outcry. The San Francisco Museum of Art and the Baltimore Museum of Art have also sold works to diversify their collection and faced controversy because of it.