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The Baltimore Museum of Art. Photo: Eli Pousson/Wikipedia Commons.
The Baltimore Museum of Art. Photo: Eli Pousson/Wikipedia Commons.

AAMD Unlikely to Extend Policy Allowing Museums to Finance Collection Care Through Deaccessioning

Members of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) in an informal poll voted 91-88 against asking board trustees to extend the relaxation of rules surrounding deaccessioning past the originally intended deadline of April 2022, The Art Newspaper reports. Typically, the AAMD allows funds gained through the sales of an institution’s artworks to be used only to acquire other works; however, in response to the continuing Covid-19 crisis, the board of the AAMD issued a temporary ruling allowing museums to use money obtained through deaccessioning to directly finance collection care.

The poll was conducted virtually on March 9 and March 11; 221 members were surveyed, with 179 responding, according to TAN, which additionally noted that the narrow margin between yea and nay votes indicates a split that seems to mirror that of public opinion. The subject has sparked passionate debate, with supporters claiming the funds are needed to sustain institutions financially crushed by the pandemic, and detractors contending that the practice could lead to museums treating works as assets to be monetized.

To date, a number of cash-strapped institutions, including the Brooklyn Museum, California’s Palm Springs Art Museum, and the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York, have already taken advantage of the policy change and have been greeted by outrage in each instance. The Baltimore Museum of Art canceled an auction at the last moment after being deprived of planned gifts that nearly equaled the amount they expected to gain from the sale, and after receiving an admonition from the AAMD regarding its planned use of a portion of the deaccession money to fund a diversity initiative. Earlier this year, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art stoked the ire of its former director, among others, with the mere suggestion that it might sell some rarely or never-seen works in order to pay its already reduced staff.