The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will sell 219 prints and photographs to offset a $ 150 million budget shortfall caused by the continuing Covid-19 crisis, according to Artnet News. Christie’s auction house will take care of the sale. The works, all duplicates of those in the Met’s collection, will be available in three installments starting September 24, when a raft of Civil War photographs hit the block. The sale is expected to generate between $ 900,000 and $ 1.4 million and includes works by Robert Frank, Roy Lichtenstein and Frank Stella. The museum has confirmed that private dealer Tobias Meyer, a former star auctioneer at Sotheby’s, is advising the institution on the sale.
Plans are underway for the Met to part ways with bigger and bigger works, but the museum has so far declined to say what that might be. By auctioning the prints and photos, the institution is taking advantage of the Covid-era guidelines established in April 2020 by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), which will only remain in effect until April. next. According to these regulations, institutions can use the funds obtained through the transfer to pay for the maintenance of their collections; normally, the money generated from the sales of works of art can only be used to purchase other works. Although a number of US museums reeling from the pandemic have turned to surrender in order to survive the crisis, the practice has been condemned in some quarters, with critics expressing concern that it represents the first step towards museums treating works as assets to be monetized, despite the fact that the AAMD is unlikely to extend the policy. Critics further cite fears that the practice will discourage donors, who may fear their gifted works will be sold at the first sign of a crisis.
Among those not supporting the Met’s enthusiastic adherence to the temporary withdrawal rules is the institution’s former head Thomas Campbell, who wrote a scathing editorial on the subject in March. Met director Max Hollein at the time dismissed criticism of the practice, saying “It’s not like crazy things are happening.” Hollein noted that the Met typically removes $ 10 million worth of works per year and that the works sold are almost always multiples, copies of “better” works that the museum already owns.