‘Crack cocaine to the addict’ – backlash as Met contemplates selling art to plug deficit

Former director Thomas P. Campbell hit back at deaccessioning suggestions

Yoko Ono, DREAM TOGETHER, 2020, installed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Courtesy © Yoko Ono; photograph: Anna-Marie Kellen

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is considering the sale of parts of its collection, in order to plug a potential USD$150 milllion budget deficit, the New York Times reports.

The Association of Art Museum Directors announced early last year that it was temporarily relaxing its regulation of deaccessioning: in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, US institutions may now spend funds from the sale of their artworks on the ‘direct care’ of existing collections, rather than the purchase of other works, effective until April 2022.

‘It would be inappropriate for us not to consider it,’ director Max Hollein said, ‘when we’re still in this foggy situation.’

But that suggestion has already triggered a backlash, with former Met director Thomas P. Campbell making clear his displeasure on Instagram – he compared deaccessioning to ‘crack cocaine to the addict – a rapid hit, that becomes a dependency’.

‘While I know as well as anyone the complexity of running that behemoth, and I have great sympathy for those in the driving seat, I fear that this is a slippery path.’

Meanwhile, former curator George Goldner told Artnet: ‘I would consider it shameful and misguided, and a poor example to the field and completely unnecessary to sell works of art from the collection.’

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