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August 05, 2014

Lucrative Art Loans Fuel Internal Rift at Boston Museum

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston's practice of lending out some of its best-known works to other museums for fees is generating tension between the institution's managers and trustees, according to The Boston Globe.

In recent years the MFA, as it is known, has sent out paintings by Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, and other masters to fee-paying museums in Japan, Italy, and elsewhere for months at a time. Board members said the deals have brought the museum about $5-million this year, money it has applied to paying debts and balancing its budget.

Art historian Margaret Koerner, who stepped down from the board this year, attributed her exit to the art leases, which she said raise concerns that works "are placed at risk too often and without sufficient justification." Other trustees expressed concern about the practice but would not speak on the record.

Museums commonly lend art among themselves. Such deals traditionally involve only the cost of transporting and securing the works, but the practice of charging additional fees is on the rise, the Globe writes. MFA leaders said the loans allow the museum to share great works with a wider audience and promote the institution and the City of Boston. Suggesting they are "all down to money is rather crude," museum director Malcolm Rogers said.