The national Association of Art Museum Directors, unhappy with the sale of artworks from institutional collections, has imposed sanctions on the La Salle University Art Museum and the Berkshire Museum, the AAMD announced Friday.
The sanctions, approved by the association’s board, mean that museums belonging to the AAMD, a professional organization with 243 members, have been asked to “refrain from lending [to] or borrowing works of art” from either La Salle or Berkshire “and to also refrain from collaborating with either institution on exhibitions.”
Officials at La Salle, which roiled the university campus by announcing in early January that it would sell artworks held by its museum to fund capital improvements and a strategic plan, did not respond to requests for comment Friday.
AAMD policy states that “selling art to support any need other than to build a museum’s collection fundamentally undermines the critically important relationships between museums, donors, and the public.”
In other words, art may be sold to acquire other art, but selling art to fix the plumbing or renovate a library is considered unethical and worthy of sanctions.
Neither La Salle, which sold 22 works at a New York auction in April, nor the Pittsfield, Mass., Berkshire Museum, which sold 11 works Wednesday, also at a New York auction, is a member of the AAMD.
Berkshire Museum officials have said they will use the proceeds of art sales to build an endowment and fund capital improvements.
A spokesman for the AAMD said Friday that the sanctions will remain in place unless the institutions decide to use the proceeds to acquire art.
Both the La Salle and Berkshire auctions failed to meet low sales estimates.
Indeed, the Berkshire Museum’s failed effort to auction off a large 1875 oil painting by Frederic Church allowed the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to acquire the work for an undisclosed sum in a “private sale” after the auction, PAFA announced Thursday.