Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Tyler Waldman, WBAL NewsRadio 1090 and FM 101.5
The Baltimore Museum of Art is pausing its controversial plans to sell three pieces to fund an ambitious new initiative.
The museum had planned to sell works by Brice Marden, Clyfford Still and Andy Warhol to fund pay raises for its staff, expanded hours and the acquisition of works by women and artists of color. The museum expected to raise $65 million from the sales.
Museum officials said the decision was reached after having heard public feedback on their Endowment for the Future plan and a private conversation between museum leadership and the Association of Art Museum Directors.
“We believe unequivocally that museums exist to serve their communities through experiences with art and artists,” museum leadership said in a statement. “We firmly believe that museums and their collections have been built on structures that we must work, through bold and tangible action, to reckon with, modify, and reimagine as structures that will meet the demands of the future. We believe that this effort is not about sacrificing history but about telling a more accurate and complete narrative of art, culture, and people. We do not abide by notions that museums exist to serve objects; we believe the objects in our collection must reflect, engage, and inspire the many different individuals that we serve.”
ARTnews reported this week that artists Amy Sherald and Adam Pendleton stepped down from the museum’s board. Two donors rescinded $50 million in planned gifts in response to the museum’s intended sale of the works.
Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight accused the museum of attempting to exploit tmporary rules put in place after the COVID-19 outbreak rocked the museum world. He called the museum “the leading poster child for art collection carelessness.”
The initial plan was crafted in consultation with AAMD.
“However, subsequent discussions and communications have made clear that we must pause our plans to have further, necessary conversations,” BMA officials said. “The BMA is committed to the governance AAMD provides for the museum community.”
They said they remain committed to the goals of the plan even if they need to seek other funding or take more time before putting them into action.
Earlier this month, a group of art lovers asked Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and Maryland Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith to block the planned sale. In a letter, they asked Frosh to investigate alleged improprieties related to the plans to sell the three works.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.