Monday, August 8, 2011

Forbidden City Accused of Selling Art to Support Operations and Luxuries

It must be very tempting for cash-strapped museums to sell off their art collections to support daily operations.  However, this practice can lead to rapid disintegration of museum, great or small.  Therefore, it is good to have such policy in place to forbid selling art to support operations by Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) in North America.

The Association of Art Museum Directors promotes the vital role of art museums throughout North America and advances the profession by cultivating leadership and communicating standards of excellence in museum practice.
In the Letter of Censure from the AAMD to Randolph College, it stressed that "AAMD’s long-standing policy restricting the use of funds obtained through deaccessioning to the acquisition of new works of art exists to protect the art museum community.  Selling art to support operations fundamentally undermines the critically important relationship between art museums and patrons who contribute works of art to collections to help advance a museum’s mission.  Selling art to support operations also erodes the incentive for patrons and other funding agencies to support art museum programs.  Why invest in such programs if art museums can pay for them by deaccessioning a few works of art now and then?  Supporting operations through the sale of works of art also fundamentally undermines the core mission of an art museum and its public service.  Finally, some of the tax exempt planning benefits that art museums provided depend, in part, on maintaining the integrity of collections to benefit the public.  Art museums, standing alone or operated as part of a college, university, or non-profit agency, fundamentally compromise these core principles and negatively impact the entire art museum community when they sell art to support operations."
Even worse, irresponsible management can even sell off art collections to fund their luxurious splurges, as the Forbidden City Museum in Beijing has been accused of.

Recently, the Museum of Forbidden City had been exposed of many misdeeds, from impossible one-man heist to hiding the damage of national treasures during testing.  Now, some insiders claimed that Forbidden City Museum had sold artifacts to fund their operations and other improper expenditures.  Since the cataloging there is very haphazard, it is not inconceivable that the proceeds from these sales, if they did take place, had been embezzled altogether.

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