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Art Museums Won’t Fade Away . . . Will They?


by Jerome Weeks 27 Jan 2009

Michael Conforti, head of the Association of Art Museum Directors, tells the Wall Street Journal that this is “a great time for art museums” — even though a got-money institution like the J. Paul Getty Museum is joining many others in freezing jobs and considering other cutbacks. And even though the AAMD itself ‘blackballed’ the […]

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Michael Conforti, head of the Association of Art Museum Directors, tells the Wall Street Journal that this is “a great time for art museums” — even though a got-money institution like the J. Paul Getty Museum is joining many others in freezing jobs and considering other cutbacks. And even though the AAMD itself ‘blackballed’ the National Academy because the museum had “deaccessioned” two Hudson River School paintings to raise $13.5 million just to pay operations costs.

So why the optimism? Because museums are one of the places “people turn to in a time of instability,” Conforti believes. “The reality is that the Metropolitan Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Phoenix Art Museum are not going away.”

OK, so those three are safe. Meanwhile, Brandeis University is closing down and selling its Rose Art Museum — which has a 6,000-item collection, including works by such contemporary masters as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Nam June Paik. It would seem to be a case of “deaccessioning” an entire museum.

But actually, that disturbing bit of news has more to do with universities’ financial endowment problems these days than the particular museum’s balance sheet.

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