Laying Off Artwork — On Montclair Art Museum Wholesaling (Or Deaccessioning) Its Permanent Collection

Montclair Art MuseumMontclair Art Museum

There are enough woes around from the art institutions nowadays that staff cut, hiring freezing or show canceling can hardly make a ripple in the turmoil of economic crisis. But the news that Montclair Art Museum is going to deaccession 50 artworks from today’s WSJ still disturbs me, not only because the  public outcry of National Academy’s deaccessioning two works has not died out, but also because the tone that Lora Urbanelli, the director of the museum holds reflects that after repetition of deaccessioning activities from different institutions, American museums have gone astray with respect to the notion of  what collections stand for. Collection becomes no long what defines an art institute, but just part of its asset which will be traded in or out due to its financial situation or curatorial tastes.

It is true that all non-profit organization face great challenges now as their endowment plummeted faster than stocks. Neither laying off staff nor deaccessioning artworks is the right way out. The former practice, especially cutting curatorial staff, erases the memory of the museum while the latter changes the identity of institution. Since to balance the budget, some expenditure has to be cut: Choices include canceling temporary exhibition (which can only save that much) or reducing the operation hours (which could cause more public stir).

Outside US, most European museums are governmental organization which are feeling pinched from the allocated budget. Based on a report in Bloomberg.com, museums fare best in France, where about 1 percent of the national budget is spent on culture each year, and this year’s package is up 5.9 percent — three times inflation — at 2.79 billion euros. However, most European institutions, icons of national glory and deluxe of the past, begin to lower their heads to seek funding from private sectors.

The National Endowment for the Arts has received 50 million dollars from the stimulus plan, which equals to almost nothing considering the number of non-profit art institutions which are struggling like Montclair Art Museum. It is true that American institutions would never expect a bail out plan from Barrack Obama’s administration, on the other hand, back in his campaign period, he emphasized the importance of arts in education and promised in reinvesting in Arts Education. If GM embodies American spirit as what some commercial advertises touts with patriotism, then American museums manifest the free spirit and also witnessed the rising power of a young country whose charisma has attracted the best arts and artists.

About Hui

Wang Hui lived from 1632 - 1717 and followed in the footprints of his great grandfathers, grandfather, father and uncles and learned painting at a very early age. He was later taught by two contemporary masters, Zhang Ke and Wang Shimin, who taught him to work in the tradition of copying famous Chinese paintings. This is most likely the reason why critics claim that his work is conservative and reflects the Yuan and Song traditions. One critic claimed that "his landscape paintings reflect his nostalgic attachment to classical Chinese aesthetics. Along with the other Wangs, Wang Hui helped to perpetuate the tradition of copying the ancient masters rather than creating original work.

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