Deaccessioning After 2020 is a virtual 2-day symposium that aims to comprehensively address collections and deaccessioning in the context of the economic fallout of the pandemic and the national call to rethink the role and responsibilities of museums and their collections in an increasingly diverse and complex world. The symposium’s agenda reflects a broad set of perspectives and taps experts from across the art and museum world, from directors and trustees, to seasoned museum professionals, scholars, legal experts, artists, auction houses, journalists, and influencers.
Online, 17-19 Mar 2021
About the Symposium
In a recent article in Apollo, art scholar and writer Glenn Adamson coined the term “progressive deaccessioning” to describe the recent movement among U.S. art museums to sell high value art and deploy the proceeds to acquire works by under-represented artists. Precipitated by the high-profile deaths of Black people at the hands of police, the movement highlights a growing national awareness of the deeply embedded racism that has perpetuated white privilege at the expense of Black lives throughout U.S. history.
The movement also coincides with the AAMD’s decision in Spring 2020 to suspend imposition of sanctions for violations of its deaccessioning rules, thus permitting museums, for a two-year period, to use proceeds from sales of deaccessioned art for direct care of their collections and the income from those funds for general operating expenses. The AAMD’s move was an acknowledgement of the existential crisis faced by museums across the country in the wake the COVID-19 pandemic, which has closed many institutions to visitors and decimated earned income.
Often viewed as mere repositories of art, museums, their directors and curatorial staffs now must consider the evolving role of their collections in serving their various missions. Among a variety of perplexing issues they face are what it means to diversify an art collection, the extent to which they may or should use deaccessioning proceeds to drive that diversification, fund operating expenses, ensure the survival of the museum, or address issues of systemic under-compensation or pay inequity within the ranks of museum staff. Complicating matters are the legal, ethical, and public relations considerations that must be taken into account when deaccessioning art in order to avoid sanctions, comply with state guidelines, and preserve an institution’s reputation and integrity.
Deaccessioning After 2020 takes a deep dive into these urgent topics in two days of compelling panel discussions and plenary keynote remarks. Anyone associated with a museum coping with the economic fallout of the pandemic and the national call to rethink the role and responsibilities of museums and their collections in an increasingly diverse world will find this symposium a valuable opportunity to engage with the complex issues museums now face.
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