Deaccessioning

Museums are often seen as repositories of the world's great art, held in trust for the public's benefit, and safe from passing fashions or speculative trading. But there are many instances when an institution is allowed to sell some of its art—because of duplicates, works in poor condition, or to upgrade its collection with better examples. Less tolerable, is when works are sold to cover operational costs, perhaps during a budget crisis or to pay for repairs and expansions. Invariably, reactions to sales are divided, and can often get heated, as when the Baltimore Museum of Art recently attempted to sell some high-value works to fund efforts to diversify its collection and staff. Here are some good and bad examples over the years

Analysis
Archives

The deaccessioning debate: 1990-2020

The disposal of objects from museum collections has been a source of controversy for decades. Did 2020 mark a turning point in the debate?

Analysis
The Year in Review 2020

Museums 2020: the year of crashing revenues and anti-racism disputes

Turbulent year draws to a close with sector wracked by pandemic lockdowns and Black Lives Matter challenges

News
Art market

Giacometti, De Chirico and Alfa Romeo cars lead Sotheby's $283m New York sales after major museum works abruptly pulled

Following weeks of controversy, the Baltimore Museum of Art withdrew two paintings just hours before the auction while many other works sold near low estimates

News
Deaccessioning

Baltimore Museum of Art calls off sale of Warhol, Still and Marden after outcry

Last-gasp decision after talks with the US museum directors association comes just before a Sotheby’s auction

News
Deaccessioning

US Association of Art Museum Directors sends a warning note to its members on deaccessioning

As works head to market, organisation reminds members that its relaxed rules were not adopted to “incentivise” art sales

News
Deaccessioning

Sotheby's sale of Israeli museum artefacts delayed after government pressure

Criticism in Israel reached an apex when President Rivlin called for the state to prevent the London auctions

News
Deaccessioning

Assailing leadership, two former board chairmen say they are rescinding $50m in planned gifts to Baltimore Museum of Art

Two artists also step down as board trustees amid turmoil over plans to deaccession three paintings

Podcast

The great museum sell-off: should public collections deaccession to survive Covid-19?

Plus, the artist Jennifer Packer on a Buddhist mural in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

News
Deaccessioning

Sale of more than 250 works from Jerusalem's Islamic art museum raises ethical questions

Israeli museum professionals fear deaccessioning auction could set a dangerous precedent

News
Auctions

The Royal Opera House's David Hockney painting sells for £12.8m at Christie's amid deaccessioning debate

The auction house's four-part £90.2m "20th Century: London to Paris" sale saw small bursts of energy for quality lots in the wake of Frieze and Fiac's cancellations

News
Deaccessioning

Responding to outcry, Baltimore Museum of Art board chair defends deaccessioning decision

“The greatness of the BMA’s collection does not live within three individual paintings,” she says as the sale of a Warhol, Still and Marden approaches

Comment
Art Market Eye

A flood of art? The market issues around museum deaccessioning

A flurry of museum pieces is heading to auction, but will there be enough buyers for them?

News
Deaccessioning

Former trustees and donors ask state to block sale of three important works by the Baltimore Museum of Art

Letter asks Maryland attorney general and secretary of state to investigate planned deaccessioning of a Warhol, Still and Marden

News
Deaccessioning

Brooklyn Museum steams ahead on deaccessioning

After netting $4.2m for a Cranach, the museum plans to sell off works by Monet, Dubuffet, Degas, Miró and Matisse

News
Deaccessioning

To mirror, and support, community: Everson Museum board chair defends deaccessioning of a Pollock

Auction proceeds will go towards diversifying the collection at the Syracuse institution with “inspirational” art

Comment
Deaccessioning

Baltimore Museum of Art curators respond to deaccessioning criticism

Equity and diversity make history fairer, more accurate, and more meaningful in the present, they say

News
Deaccessioning

Palm Springs Art Museum will deaccession a work by Helen Frankenthaler at Sotheby's

The work carries an estimate of $2.5m to $3.5m and will help the museum cope with its financial struggles amid the Covid-19 pandemic

News
Deaccessioning

'The public need to know the truth': company that valued Sekhemka statue before its controversial sale speaks out

Dealer offered to buy the Egyptian artefact for £4m and save it for the nation, claims Art & Antiques Appraisals

Comment
Deaccessioning

‘Uniquely egregious’: The disturbing precedent of the Baltimore Museum of Art’s deaccessioning plan

Sale of three valuable paintings by Warhol, Still and Marden points to a thirst for a $65m windfall, with no curatorial rationale

News
Deaccessioning

Baltimore Museum of Art will sell important paintings by Warhol, Still and Marden

Acting on relaxed rules, it will use the funds for collection care and salary increases as well as diverse acquisitions

Comment
Deaccessioning

Done right, selling museum pieces can work—but probably not with Michelangelos

UK museums may deaccession collection objects with curatorial justification and transparency, but it cannot be treated as a quick financial fix

Podcast

Sell the Michelangelo or lose 150 staff? The Royal Academy of Arts’s Covid-19 conundrum

Plus, the curator Legacy Russell talks about her new book Glitch Feminism

News
Museums & Heritage

Royal Academy of Arts considers selling Michelangelo marble to plug financial hole—and not for the first time

Some academicians argue that instead of cutting almost half of the institution's jobs, it should consider selling the Taddei Tondo—worth several hundred million pounds

News
Deaccessioning

Cranach, Courbet and Corot: a closer look at what the Brooklyn Museum is selling off

The institution is deaccessioning its only Cranach and 11 other works to finance care of its collection

Comment
Deaccessioning

Why the Association of Art Museum Directors’s move on deaccessioning matters so much

Decision to relax rules on selling art exposes chinks in a fortress

News
coronavirus

AAMD loosens rules for museums seeking to divert income amid coronavirus crisis

While legal hurdles remain, the museum directors’ association will not penalise members who redirect restricted funds to cover operating expenses

Blog
Diary of an art historian

Disneyfication at the National Gallery? Plus, the problem with deaccessioning in the UK

The stigma around state museums selling works means that other institutions dare not buy them; and a frank review of the National Gallery's Leonardo exhibition

News
Deaccessioning

UK local authority's plan to dispose of 90% of works in its collection rings alarm bells

Art Fund raises concerns about consignment of 152 works to auction by Hertfordshire County Council

News

Rio’s Museum of Modern Art finally sells Pollock for around $13m

For a struggling institution, the price is short of earlier estimates

News
Deaccessioning

Revealed: marquess of Northampton tried to buy Sekhemka statue before it was controversially sold off by UK museum

Ancient Egyptian sculpture was almost bought by the 7th marquess, whose predecessor donated it to the local museum in the 19th century

News
Berkshire Museum

The Berkshire Museum to sell nine more works from its collection

The institution failed to meet its $55m target at last month's auctions

News

Marc Chagall’s Eiffel Tower goes back on the walls after deaccessioning threat

After facing controversy for attempting to sell the work to fund another acquisition, the National Gallery of Canada will return the Modernist painting to public view

News

Baltimore museum sells blue-chip art to buy works by minority artists

Five works made around $18m (with fees) at auctions at Sotheby’s New York on 19 May, and two were bought for undisclosed sums in private sales

News
Acquisitions

American University Museum gets 9,000 works from Corcoran Gallery of Art’s collection

The defunct museum has given the last of its 20,000 works to 22 institutions in Washington, DC

News
Deaccessioning

Anonymous donor steps in to pay hefty penalty for the National Gallery of Canada’s botched Chagall sale

The rushed deaccessioning—to fund the acquisition of another work from neighbouring Quebec—raised a storm of criticism

News
Acquisitions

George Lucas gives Rockwell fans new hope with acquisition of Shuffleton’s Barbershop

The work will first goes on loan in Massachusetts and possibly elsewhere

News

Supreme Court Justice greenlights Berkshire Museum’s art sale

The institution can now go ahead with plans to auction works from its collection to raise up to $55m for a renovation

News

Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro to sell Brazil’s only Pollock on public view

The museum says the move is necessary for its long-term survival, while others protest the decision as “absurd”

News
Berkshire Museum

Berkshire Museum and Massachusetts Attorney General reach deal to allow sale of works

If approved by the court, Rockwell's Shuffleton’s Barbershop will be bought by an unnamed US museum, and the other works sold in stages

Comment
Deaccessioning

Auction houses must share the blame for university sell-offs

Christie's sale of 46 works from La Salle collection will diminish the museum and its academic programme

News

Massachusetts Attorney General asks for short extension of injunction against Berkshire Museum sale

The state’s investigation into the board’s controversial deaccessioning plan could be wrapping up within a week

News

La Salle sell-off plan rebuked by professional museum and curator groups

Controversy prompts debate about the governance and ethics of university art museums

News
Deaccessioning

Berkshire Museum art sale to go ahead

A judge in Massachusetts has denied two motions to block next week’s auctions of deaccessioned works

News

Massachusetts Attorney General supports request for restraining order against Berkshire Museum

A court will decide this week whether to temporarily halt the sale of 40 works at Sotheby’s

News
Law

Norman Rockwell’s sons file temporary restraining order in Massachusetts court

Two works by their father are among 40 that were due to be sold by the Berkshire Museum

News

Berkshire Museum courts censure from museums groups with plan to sell 40 works

Among the objects to be auctioned for the endowment and refurbishment are two paintings by Norman Rockwell

News

MoMA turns to Paris dealer to sell deaccessioned Dubuffet

Painting is one of two works from the New York museum that Applicat-Prazan will take to major fairs<br>

News
Deaccessioning

Outcry after Toledo Museum of Art sells ancient Greek and Egyptian objects at auction

The Cypriot ambassador urged the museum to keep the works, while Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities demanded their return and has blacklisted the institution

News

Sekhemka to leave the UK as export licence deadline passes

A matching offer was not made in time to keep the Egyptian statute, controversially sold off by Northampton Museum in 2014, in the country

Archive
July 2014

'The most important Egyptian sculpture ever to come to market': UK city council risks ire by selling off £6m ancient sculpture

Northampton, which wants to raise funds for a gallery extension, is putting its museums' Arts Council accreditation at risk

Archive
August 2013

Comment: The immorality of using Detroit’s art to bail out bankrupt city

Even if it proves legal to sell paintings in the Detroit Institute of Arts, there is a moral case to consider

Archive
August 2013

Fight for Detroit’s art begins

Director of art museum in bankrupt city steels himself for long battle as price tags are put on greatest works

Archive
December 2012

German museum wants to swap its Giacometti for another Giacometti

The Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg wants to sell the sculpture La Jambe—a key work in its collection—so it can purchase a painting by the artist

Archive
September 2010

Artists boycott Rose Art Museum shows

Ex-director says Brandeis University “doesn’t understand” outrage over plan to sell-off $350m collection

Archive
July 2010

Eli Broad addresses the American Association of Museums: “Get art out of the basement"

The collector lectures museum professionals at their annual conference in Los Angeles

Archive
September 2008

Denver Art Museum art-share deal under investigation for breaching deaccessioning guidelines

Billionaire collector was given a half share in a Charles Deas painting in exchange for funding a Thomas Eakins acquisition

Archive
February 2007

Albright-Knox sells the old to pay for the new

Sotheby's is auctioning 200 antiquities and pre-Modern works worth $15m from the US museum's collection to raise funds to purchase Modern and contemporary art

Archive
November 2006

MoMA's deaccessioned Picasso on show in France

Bequeathed to the museum by Nelson Rockefeller, the painting was controversially sold in 2013

Archive
March 2006

Tate is not a museum: Gallery could lose privileges

As it is not accredited by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council due to its deacquisition guidelines

Archive
September 2005

V&A sends stolen monstrance on long-term loan to Spain

The 16th-century silver object had been taken from a church in Toro in 1890

Archive
Museums

MoMA's sustained deaccessioning continues

The museum is selling paintings by Picasso, Pollock, Léger and De Chirico, among others, at Christie's next month

Archive
January 2004

Tate considers selling art

Trustees will look at whether the museum should “upgrade” works by living artists

Archive
July 2001

New French legislation allows works less than 30 years old to be deaccessioned

Contemporary art museums say their collections are undervalued and at risk

Archive
April 2001

Vintage photos from MoMA to be auctioned at Sotheby's

The museum is to deaccession duplicates from its collection

Archive
July 2000

Publisher Si Newhouse resigns from board over buying Picasso deaccessioned by the museum

Museum of Modern Art’s relations with former trustee's relations were “warm but distant”