Aug 26, 2009

University of Iowa to Consider the Future of its Art Museum

From the press-citizen:

The University of Iowa has established an envisioning committee to consider options for the future of the UI Museum of Art, the university announced Tuesday.  The art collection was removed from the museum because of the 2008 flood, and then UI officials decided the facility was too vulnerable to ever house art again. The collection is scattered with some pieces on UI campus but most, including the famed Jackson Pollock "Mural," are at the Figge Museum in Davenport.  UI President Sally Mason, who established the committee, said in an interview last week that it was too early to say what might come from the committee but she asked its members to keep an open mind.  "I want people to think about all of the possibilities," Mason said.  Carroll Reasoner, UI interim vice president of legal affairs and general counsel, will serve as chairwoman of the 19-member committee, which includes faculty, community members and students and will be assisted by a five-member advisory committee.  The committee will have its first meeting at 1:30 p.m. Friday in Jessup Hall on the UI campus.  Mason said last week she expects a preliminary report from the committee by Christmas.  UI officials don't yet know how to pay for a new museum, which makes it different from virtually every other major flood recovery project on campus.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover 90 percent of renovation costs for most projects and to rebuild the Hancher Auditorium complex and Art Building complex, which are eligible to be relocated under FEMA guidelines.  However, the old Museum of Art facility was not damaged severely enough to be eligible for FEMA funds for relocation. That leaves UI on its own in planning and paying for a new home for the art collection.  "That's been our assumption. It will be left to us to determine its fate and its future," Mason said.

So, we have a situation where it is not possible to return the works to the original, flood-prone museum; and paying for a new museum will be difficult.  One thing I think the committee should consider is selling a few of the works to another public institution, and using the funds raised to keep much of the art at UI.  But that of course would violate the ethics rules of the AAMD and the AAM.  I have a long article which I'm currently trying to place in law reviews where I criticize the default rules governing deaccession; which I hope to post in the coming days, so I'll have a lot more to say on deaccessioning generally.  But in terms of this situation, I don't see how the current rules make it easier for the UI to fulfill its mission.  Deaccession is never the ideal response, but what other options are left?  Hope for a wealthy benefactor?  Increased funding?  Store the works until a solution is found?  Loan them to other institutions? 
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