A few weeks ago on this program, host Tom Hall spoke with the director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Christopher Bedford, about the museum’s plans to "deaccession," or sell, three major works in its collection to raise as much as $65 million dollars to fund the BMA’s diversity and equity programs. The proceeds of the deaccessioning will be used to purchase art by women and people of color, and to give salary increases to museum staff, including the security guards and others who are currently making about $13.50 per hour.
The public auction of two of the works, paintings by Clyfford Still ("1957-G") and Brice Marden ("3"), was scheduled for this evening at Sotheby’s auction house in New York. Ever since it was announced earlier this month, the plan to remove these works from the BMA’s collection and sell them in the private art market has been vehemently opposed by many in the art world. Yesterday, a professional organization that maintains guidelines about criteria that must be met for a museum to deaccession works from its collection sent an e mail indicating that the BMA, and other museums, are not adhering to those guidelines...
In addition to the auction of the paintings by Still and Marden, the BMA plan includes the sale of a large silk screen by Andy Warhol, titled "The Last Supper." As of yesterday, it was unclear whether or not that sale would move forward. Sotheby’s had guaranteed a sale price of the Warhol work of at least $40 million dollars. The Still and Marden paintings are expected to earn between $12 and $18 million dollars at auction.
Copyrighted images of the three paintings being sold by the BMA can be seen in the slide show, above.
Criticism and legal challenges to the plan have come from some current and former board members, and some prominent art critics. We will hear from one of those former board members today.
We had also hoped to speak today with Clair Zamoiski Segal, who serves as the chair of the BMA Board of Trustees, but she is meeting with the Board of the BMA at this hour, and unable to join us.
Tom's first guest is Laurence Eisenstein. He’s a lawyer, an art collector and a former BMA trustee. Mr. Eisenstein has been closely involved in the efforts by opponents to stop the deaccession of these three paintings and press the museum to find other ways to fund its diversity and equity programs. Laurence Eisenstein joins us on Zoom.
Later in the show, Tom talks with Cara Ober, the founding editor and publisher of BMore Art, a highly respected journal of the Baltimore arts scene, about what lessons can be learned in the current controversy about the relationship between an art museum and the community it serves. Some of Cara's recent writing on the issue can be found here.
We also welcome listener calls and comments via email and Twitter.