Wednesday, October 31, 2007

VAM Responds to Randolph College Decision to De-accession Works from the Maier Museum of Art

The Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) released a letter sent to President John E. Klein of Randolph College, in which the Association expressed its opposition to the sale of four paintings from the college’s Maier Museum of Art. The letter (attached) was approved by the Council (board of directors) of VAM, the largest state museum association in the United States.

The paintings, which are slated to be auctioned in November by Christie’s in New York,
are: George Bellows’ Men of the Docks; Edward Hicks’ A Peaceable Kingdom; Ernest Martin
Hennings’ Through the Arroyo; and Rufino Tamayo’s Troubador. The college intends to apply the expected $32 million in revenue to its operating endowment, and to endow the Maier Museum Director’s position. [Museum Director Karol Lawson resigned in protest on October 2, the day after the paintings were removed by college officials. The controversy also prompted the resignations of the museum’s associate director and a member of the college’s art faculty.]
“It is the consensus of the Council that the Randolph College Board of Trustees and administration are making a grave mistake in treating works of art in the Maier Museum
collection as financial assets that can be sold to fund operating expenses of the college,” noted
Scott H. Harris, VAM President. “Such a clear violation of accepted museum standards compromises the museum’s ethical standing among its peers, and sets a disturbing precedent
that may hamper the collecting efforts of other institutions.”

Museum staff contacted VAM two years ago, when the college Board of Trustees began
looking at the art collection for possible sale. VAM’s Executive Director Margo Carlock made a
presentation on the ethics and standards of deaccessioning to the Board in September 2005.
“The museum director and staff acted in a responsible, professional manner in seeking to
provide a full range of information and professional museum perspective to aid the board in its
decision-making,” said Carlock. “It is regrettable that the board chose to take the action that it

As a museum professional, what do you think about this issue? Blog with us!

- Margo Carlock