Elsewhere online
July 27, 2016

Fisk U. Art Sales Open Window Into 'Deaccessioning' Debate

The New York Times looks at sales of donated art by Nashville's Fisk University in light of the larger debate in the museum world over such "deaccessioning" by financially struggling institutions.

While Fisk was still embroiled in a long legal fight over plans to sell part of its prized Alfred Stieglitz collection — donated by the photographer's widow, artist Georgia O'Keeffe – the college's then-president, Hazel O'Leary, quietly sold works by celebrated modernist painter Florine Stettheimer and illustrator Rockwell Kent. Patrick Albano, an art dealer who brokered the sales, said the works had been given to Fisk with "no strings attached" and that the university was under severe financial duress.

Museum associations consider it an ethical breach to sell art for purposes other than buying other works. Doing so to support operating expenses “alienates donors and undermines the purpose of having a museum on campus,” said Lyndel King, director of the University of Minnesota's Weisman Art Museum and co-chair of the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries' Task Force for the Protection of University Collections.