Deaccessioning, as the Baltimore Museum of Art just discovered when it was forced to withdraw works from sale at Sotheby’s in late October, has its perils. The Brooklyn Museum was able to sell works in the same sale that BMA had to abandon. Sometimes the difference between a scandal and success is planning and advice. At least, that’s what a new team of experienced lawyers and public relations people are betting as they launch a new service for museums.
In February of this year, Jon Olsoff, John Cahill and Paul Cossu announced the formation of a new law firm (OCC) catering to the art world. The lawyers at OCC have decades of experience working with institutions as they picked their way through the complex issues associated with these kinds of sales, both at auction and privately.
Now they’ve enlisted the help of Sotheby’s former communications head, Lauren Gioia, who will lend her 20+ years expertise as a consultant to OCC. During her time at Sotheby’s, Gioia led the communications strategies for the largest and many of the most complicated deaccessions in history. Gioia and OCC are pooling their wealth of knowledge, experience and specific expertise—they’ve worked on a range of deaccessioning events at City of Denver/Clyfford Still Museum (2011), SF MoMA (2019), Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (2014, 2018), Dia Art Foundation (2013), MFA Boston (2003, 2011), New York Public Library (2005), Albright-Knox Art Gallery (2007), Berkshire Museum (2017/2018)—to provide integrated communications and legal counsel to museums and cultural institutions embarking on deaccessions and sales.
“Most museums have very capable communications and legal counsel,” Gioia said, “but deaccessions and sales require specific expertise and experience that we can provide. Our role would be to partner with the existing teams to ensure institutions achieve a successful outcome based on their goals.”