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October 27, 2005

Museums Set to Sell Art, and Some Experts Cringe

Museums Set to Sell Art, and Some Experts Cringe

By CAROL VOGEL
Published: October 26, 2005 in The New Work Times

Undaunted by the tempest over the New York Public Library's sale of a prized painting, arts institutions across the country are cleaning out their closets for auctions starting next week, stirring fresh unease among art historians and curators.

Artworks going on the block include paintings by Picasso, Modigliani and Chagall, and rare photographs by masters like Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston. In December, the public library is moving ahead with the sale of two portraits of George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart, and 16 other paintings.

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October 27, 2005 in Art, Reality | Permalink

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We like to think of museums as keepers of culture, above the compromise and horsetrading of the commercial world: and would they were. But they have to pay the bills, too, including salaries and health insurance and whopping insurance premiums for theft and damage, and shipping bills,utility bills, bills for the fancy food and wines for their promotions to please their donors, PR fees, and the big costs of keeping the buildings in good shape. (Looked at the MMA lately?). This Government is not pleased to help them pay bills; it is happy to give tax breaks to the super-rich who might then endow a new wing or bequeath a fine collection, and see their name up on a brass plate for it. Nobody wants to see his name on a brass plate for paying the electric bill. That's one thing. Another is that fashions change, even among curators, who also want to make a name for themselves as original, powwerful, influential, trend-setting, and superior; so they may seek yto impress their tastes on the museum's collections, selling one tihng to buy another more in their style, and so on. Who knows? Some of the works going to Christie's are very attractive: I'd adore to have that Laundress, and the Modigliani portrait would look just fine on my walls.

Posted by: judith | Oct 27, 2005 8:57:56 PM

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