Recently, the Delaware Art Museum announced that it would be auctioning four works of art to raise about $30 million for repaying debt and replenishing its endowment. Some people have criticized the museum’s decision since it pledged not to sell any donated works, which represents about 90% of its collection. De-accessioning works of art is never an ideal situation, but the Delaware Art Museum has stated they feel it is the best decision and would help set the museum up for the next 100 years. But is de-accession the best or the only alternative for this museum?
There is a recent article on the matter that proposes the idea that museums should be required to defend de-accessioning art before an impartial arbitrator. That got me thinking. Would there be less de-accessioning art if there museum had to argue their case to some sort of authoritative art council or event the artist of the artwork? My guess is ABSOLUTELY! Personally, I feel that there is probably some alternative for The Delaware Art Museum to repay its debts, one that would require outside help and not failing to keep their promise to never sell donated artworks. De-accession could result in the museum loosing some of its credibility, and should be avoided at all costs. If the art director had to defend his/her case, I’m sure there would be better ways to resolve its financial issues. The next question would then be who would decide if a museum were allowed to de-accession artworks? I think the answer to that question is a complicated one, which is why there probably won’t be any kind of governing body to judge this type of decision.