US Museum Directors Defend Deaccessioning

March 22 2021

Image of US Museum Directors Defend Deaccessioning

Picture: BMA

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Art Newspaper has published an article on the most recent defence of the directors of the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) and the Brooklyn Museum in their deaccessioning plans. Their comments were taken from a recent conference on the topic held by an American University.

In particular, Francis Bedford of the BMA, whose recent plan to sell $65m of art was thwarted last year, is quoted saying:

"the most important thing a museum can nurture is in fact not its collection but rather its community”, he calls for an aggressive reckoning with systemic bias at art institutions “in all categories, using any and all means”.

"[Museums] are not membership clubs. To reach and serve all communities, not just those in historically established spaces of privilege, it is an imperative of the present to reckon with the inequities of the past and the institutional systems that uphold those inequities."

Anne Pasternak from the Brooklyn Museum, who have accumulated $35m for 'collection care' thus far, is quoted:

“We ought to be more than static repositories for art,” she said. “It is unrealistic to accumulate endlessly.”


On the surface of it, it seems like Bedford wants to be in charge of a local community centre, rather than an art gallery. No one can disagree with the notion that museums can do more to diversify their collection if the opportunities present themselves. However, is plundering your existing and inherited collections the best way to do this? Equally, are we living in a moment where an increasing amount of museum professionals are losing their faith in objects?

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