The Baltimore Museum of Art is selling Andy Warhol's "The Last Supper," as well as two other paintings from renowned artists Clyfford Still and Brice Marden, to fund "diversity initiatives," reported The Baltimore Sun.
The museum could generate upwards of $65 million from the three sales. The paintings by Still and Marden will be sold by Sotheby's this fall through public auction; the Warhol sale will be a private transaction.
The funds will be transferred into an endowment used to increase museum staff salaries and hourly wages, eliminate admission fees for special exhibitions, and offer evening hours to reach a more widespread audience.
Museum director Christopher Bedford told The Sun that a "light bulb went off inside my head during the lockdown."
Bedford said, "I realized that it's impossible to stand behind a diversity, justice and inclusion agenda as an art museum unless you're living those ideals within your own walls. We can't say we're an equitable institution just because we buy a painting by [the African American multimedia artist] Kerry James Marshall and hang it on a wall."
He said, "what's more important is to create and model the world of inclusion he depicts in his paintings."
In the last two years, this is the second time the Baltimore museum has sold artworks to "enhance diversity initiatives," The Sun said. A 2018 sale of seven works fetched more than $16.2 million at a Sotheby's auction.
What's concerning is the museum is selling off their collections in the name of funding "diversity initiatives." More of less, it could be a cover as the museum might be facing financial hardships related to the virus-induced downturn in the economy.
In August, we noted the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) warned a couple of hundred museums nationwide could be at risk of closing permanently within the next 16 months thanks to the virus pandemic.
The survey results document extreme financial distress in the museum field. One-third (33%) of respondents were not confident they would be able to survive 16 months without additional financial relief, and 16 percent felt their organization was at a significant risk of permanent closure. The vast majority (87%) of museums have only 12 months or less of financial operating reserves remaining, with 56% having less than six months left to cover operations. Forty-four percent had furloughed or laid off some portion of their staff, and 41 percent anticipated reopening with reduced staff. - AAM said
So what's the real story behind the Baltimore museum unloading pricey artwork? Is their true intention to fund "diversity initiatives" or support operations, so the museum doesn't go under?