This follows the decision made by each institution to use the proceeds from recent art sales to support operating budgets or expansion initiatives, a decision that violates one of the core principles of art museums.
The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) announced that its Board of Trustees had voted to impose sanctions on the Berkshire Museum and the La Salle University Art Museum. This follows the decision made by each institution to use the proceeds from recent art sales to support operating budgets or expansion initiatives, a decision that violates one of the core principles of art museums. These actions are in opposition to AAMD’s policy that such funds must be used only to support acquisitions of art.
AAMD has a long-standing policy that restricts the use of funds obtained through deaccessioning to the acquisition of works of art. 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. When museums violate the trust of their donors and the public, they diminish the opportunity and responsibility to make great works of art available to the public. This hurts the individual institution and affects the museum field as a whole.
AAMD communicated with both the Berkshire Museum and La Salle University, expressing clearly that alternative approaches to raising funds should be considered and offering to support that process by drawing on the knowledge and experience of its member museum directors. AAMD also conveyed that violations of its policy on the use of funds from the sale of art could result in sanctions being imposed by the Association. Over the last year, AAMD has issued a number of statements sharing these views publicly.
Now that both organizations have sold works of art and continue to state their intentions to use the funds for purposes other than art acquisitions, AAMD’s Board of Trustees determined that imposing sanctions is the necessary next step and is the action consistent with AAMD’s long-standing professional policies and to past responses to other art museums that have violated these ethical standards. These sanctions, which are effective immediately, ask that each of the Association’s 243 members refrain from lending or borrowing works of art to either the Berkshire Museum or the La Salle University Art Museum, and to also refrain from collaborating with either institution on exhibitions.
If either institution comes forward to demonstrate that they have not applied the proceeds of the recent sales in accordance with their publicly stated intentions—and instead will use these funds to support acquisitions, in accordance with the Association’s policy and field-wide best practices—then AAMD will consider whether the withdrawal of sanctions is appropriate.
The exterior of Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts © Berkshiremuseum
The Association of Art Museum Directors advances the profession by cultivating leadership capabilities of directors, advocating for the field, and fostering excellence in art museums. An agile, issues-driven organization, AAMD has three desired outcomes: engagement, leadership, and shared learning. Further information about AAMD’s professional practice guidelines and position papers is available at www.aamd.org.
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