On Wednesday, Michael O’Hare, a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School, waded into the still-smoldering controversy over the Berkshire Museum’s deaccession plan in order to address what he sees as a much larger, more consequential problem: the behemoth number of inactive works of art shuttered away in institutional storage.
At major museums, O’Hare estimates that as much as 90 percent of holdings are effectively on ice like a severed finger at any given time. In response to SF Chronicle art critic Charles Desmarais’s recent assertionthat “cultural value, as opposed to monetary value, is the only worth of the objects in museum collections,” O’Hare asked in his piece, “Aside from maybe someday appearing in a scholarly article… just how are these works creating cultural value if no one is looking at them?”
O’Hare’s argument would affect more than just the Berkshire brawl. Obviously, the rhetorical trench warfare over the Met’s revised admission policy continued this week. (Felix Salmon fired a numbers-based mortartoward the museum on Wednesday.) MoMA director Glenn Lowry even knowingly took a step toward the killing fields when he declared on this week’s episode of In Other Words, the Art Agency, Partners’ podcast, that museums…
“…should deaccession rigorously in order to either acquire more important works of art or build endowments to support programming…. It doesn’t benefit anyone when there are millions of works of art that are languishing in storage…. We would be far better off, in my opinion, allowing others to have those works of art that might enjoy them, but even more importantly, converting that [resource] to… support public programs, exhibitions, publications.” Read more