Fun Friday

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Indie Police Find Ersatz Matisse

It looked like a regular old domestic dispute of the drunken roommate sort when Indianapolis police visited an apartment for a routine bust-up: but Officer Robert Robinson thought he spotted an Henri Matisse’s 1937 painting “Romanian Blouse” on the wall. It had a Cincinnati Art Museum label on the back along with “Bequest of Mary E. Johnston,.”. But a phone call to the museum came back negative: the real painting, the museum said, was hanging where it belonged. But the sparring roomies says they received the painting from a man who is currently doing some time; that man said he’d stolen it about seven years ago during a drug deal. Oddly reports mentioning that the painting is fake, make no mention of any suspicion of forgery — even though the copied imprimateur makes that very likely. Perhaps that is because the investigation continues. Another unmentioned possibility: the one in CAM is a fake switched out for the original which was hanging on the roomie’s wall.

No Good Guys or Bad Guys in Detroit (yet)

In response to the ongoing worries in the press regarding the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection, The Art Law blog linked to one of it’s older posts which addressed a NYT article .

Although the Times article was quite rightly discussing a renewed scrutiny of the practice of deaccessioning, The Art Law article focusing on what it views as a betrayal of “the public trust,” seems to miss some subtleties: a) the public trust is in the collection, usually, not individual works: the collection is to be kept whole and healthy. Musuems that receive AMA approval mustn’t sell works to cover museum expenses, but they may sell works to improve the collection. Also notable is a confusion between donor covenants which, contractually, must be respected and “the public trust.”

So, let’s get clear: the DIA is on firm ground in claiming that it’s covenant protected works are off the table. And the museum and/or the city could—hypothetically mind you —if pressured, make the case that the works NOT covered by covenants can be sold or leased if, by doing so, the DIA preserves the purpose, the quality, etc. of its collection. This is not at all likely to happen any time soon, at least not on the part of the museum who’s COO told me recently that they will “vigorously protect” the collection.”

Keep in mind, however, that the DIA is a special case; public trust or no, their collection belongs to the city. This unusual business relationship means that the city’s bankruptcy provides the museum with an unanticipated conflict of interest: they may fight as valliantly as they want, but their power to uphold their responsibility to the public is curtailed by their business relationship with the city.

That is not to say they are at their mercy: as I’ve pointed out before, but that their fates may be tethered and they have to work together to keep the DIA as healthy as they can in the face of bankruptcy proceedings. No one’s the bad guy here. Not yet.

Amazon Selling Art: Hilarity Ensues

I should have known to look out for this one: but AFC was quicker on the ball, realizing immediately that with Amazon selling art, hilarity would follow! Brilliant stuff!

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