Art Museums — Censored or Censors?


Recently the New Ethical Guidelines of the American Association of Museums called for "transparency" and "accountability" from museums.

The articles referenced below touch upon the role of little-disclosed financial considerations in how art museums select art to feature and how those little-disclosed financial considerations can influence the subsequent official curatorial research record.


Biggest Donors Stood to Gain From Brooklyn Museum Show, Sunday New York Times, 10/31/1999.

Art, Money and Control:  Elements of an Exhibition, New York Times, 12/06/1999.

In the End, the 'Sensation' Is Less the Art Than the Money, New York Times, 11/03/1999.
Armani Gift to the Guggenheim Revives Issue of Art and Commerce, New York Times, 12/15/1999.
'Sensation,' Gone but Still Provocative, New York Times, 02/14/2000.

Guidelines on Exhibiting Borrowed Objects, New York Times, 08/04/2000.

A Crisis of Fakes, Sunday New York Times Magazine, 03/18/2001.
Smithsonian Group Criticizes Official on Donor Contract, New York Times, 05/26/2001.
Gifts That Can Warp a Museum, Editorial, New York Times, 05/31/2001.
Smithsonian Must Exhibit Ingenuity in the Face of Overlapping Gifts, New York Times, August, 6, 2001.
Another Smithsonian Director Resigns, New York Times, 09/20/2001.
And Now, an Exhibition From Our Sponsor, New York Times, 08/23/2009.
New Ethical Standards Set for Museums, New York Times, 11/17/2001.


Biggest Donors Stood to Gain From Brooklyn Museum Show, David Barstow, Sunday New York Times, 10/31/1999, pp. 1&48.

The Times wrote, "Far more than has been previously disclosed, the 'Sensation' exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art has been financed by companies and individuals with a direct commercial interest in the works of the young British artists in the show, according to court documents and interviews with people involved in the exhibition.

Mr. Barstow explained, "Faced with rising costs and the unwillingness of major corporations to support the show — whose works have provided furious protests in London and more recently in New York — Arnold L. Lehman, the museum's director, embarked this summer on an aggressive campaign to finance 'Sensation' by other means."

The focus of concern in this coverage was that "He and his assistants raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from those who stood to profit most from the exhibition of contemporary art, a practice that other museum executives say was practically unheard of and ethically problematic."

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani threatened legal action, "accusing museum officials not only of recklessly staging an exhibition of vulgar and sacrilegious art, but also of conspiring with the owner of the 'Sensation' collection, Charles Saatchi, to inflate the value of the works on display."

The breadth of commercial involvement was extensive, the Times explained.  "Mr. Lehman and his assistants solicited donations of at least $10,000 from dealers who represented many of the artists whose works are on display.  They offered Christie's special access to the museum to entertain clients. They secured a pledge of $160,000 from Mr. Saatchi and then tried to conceal his financial support from the public."

The Times reported Mr. Lehman's denial, that he "insisted that the commercial considerations had never entered his discussions with those who donated money to the exhibition. . . .  He said the donors had been motivated by enthusiasm for an important body of art, not by any desire for profit."

This controversy became confused by the focus of most media attention on the sensationalist nature of the art exhibited and countervailing concerns regarding censorship.

But Mr. Barstow and the Times had the correct focus:  "At stake is nothing less than a museum's independence and integrity, experts in museum ethics say.  Museums have a public trust to display art on the basis of merit, those experts say, and are sure to suffer if they become viewed as instruments for private financial gain."

The article continued, reporting how David Bowie, the pop musician, promised to give about $75,000, agreed to record the exhibit audio tour without charge, received rights to display the exhibition on his website that has commercial pages.  "While Mr. Bowie's financial contribution has been kept in confidence by museum officials, traffic on the Bowie website had more than tripled."

The Times described how "[A]ccording to an internal Christie's memorandum, the $50,000 'represents Christie's most significant financial commitment to an external exhibition to date.'"

Allison Whiting, director of museum services at Christies, was quoted in the memo stating, "'I would like to see us capitalize on it as much as possible."

And the Times detailed that "For its donation Christie's was given , among other benefits, 'unlimited opportunities to entertain in the museum during the run of the exhibition with the $5,000 rental fee to be waived,' according to an internal Christie's memorandum."

The article included Mr. Lehman;s statement that, this type of fund-raising was "no different from what other museum directors do."

The article noted that when the Brooklyn Museum of Art ended up in court with the City of New York regarding Mayor Giuliani's attempt to restrict public funding, Mr. Lehman "identified several other instances in which public museums exhibited private collections.  He named the National Gallery of Art, in Washington."  And Mr. Lehman "also named the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, in Richmond."

The Times wrote, that Patricia O'Connell, a spokeswoman for the National Gallery of Art, said that it "forbade auction houses and dealers to contribute money to exhibitions of private collections.  'We are careful to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest in dealing with or accepting financial support from the commercial art market.'"

And the Times noted that the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond officially denied Mr. Lehman's allegation.

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Art, Money and Control:  Elements of an Exhibition, David Barstow, New York Times, 12/06/1999, pp. A1&B16.

In this report the Times described significant professional dissension within the institution:  "The director of the Brooklyn Museum of Art gave the collector Charles Saatchi a central role in determining the artistic content of 'Sensation,' so much so that senior museum officials repeatedly expressed concerns that Mr. Saatchi had usurped control of the exhibition, internal museum documents show."

In academic research, transparency is required.  But in this article Mr. Barstow described that "Mr. Saatchi, the British advertising magnate who owns the provocative paintings and sculptures in 'Sensation,' is the show's single largest financial backer, a fact museum officials disclosed in court papers after months of concealing Mr. Saatchi's financial support."

The Times reported that museum employees were expressing concerns that the man who owned and dealt commercially in the art work in the exhibition was controlling it and greatly increasing the museum's expenses for the project.  The articles stated, "As costs soared, Mr. Lehman raised ticket prices and scaled back the additional security, visitor services and education programs planned for 'Sensation'."

The Times article raised the issue of official misrepresentation.  "In interviews and sworn court papers, Mr. Lehman has underscored this point [whether a body of art is worthy of exhibition] by describing how he decided to pursue 'Sensation' after seeing it at the Royal Academy in London and coming away impressed both by the art and the long lines at the museum door.  . . . But Mr. Lehman was not as informed about 'Sensation' as he has suggested.  The documents show, and the museum now concedes, that Mr. Lehman never actually saw 'Sensation' in London.  His initial overtures began in January 1998, two weeks after 'Sensation' closed."

Regarding another apparent official contradiction, in his article Mr. Barstow wrote, "In a written response to questions from The New York Times, Mr. Lehman adamantly insisted that there was no link between his seeking sponsorship from Christie's and his discussion of auctioning works from the museum's collection."

But the article continues that "In late April, the same week Mr. Saatchi was soliciting Christie's, Mr. Lehman went to lunch with Patricia Hambrecht, president of Christie's Americas.  He, too, asked Christie's to help underwrite 'Sensation,' and, in the same lunch he mentioned that he was undertaking a 'significant' program to sell off works from 'all collecting categories' of the museum.  He said the museum needed to 'rethink its entire approach to contemporary art,' an area Christie's was avidly pursuing."

'There might be something here worth exploring," the Times reported that Ms. Hambrecht wrote in a memo.

Then the article included that "Weeks later, Christie's sold approximately $21,000 worth of art from the Brooklyn Museum, its only sale for the museum in 1998, a Christie's spokeswoman said."

The Times wrote then that "The museum declined to disclose a breakdown of its art sales — or to reveal the auction houses that handled those sales — since the date of Mr. Lehman's lunch."  This is stunning to read since so much of the funding of the Brooklyn Art Museum come from the public taxpayer and the entire process of deaccession and sales should be completely transparent.

But this is not all.  This article reports other additional questionable actions at the Brooklyn Museum of Art regarding this project as well.

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In the End, the 'Sensation' Is Less the Art Than the Money, Michael Kimmelman, New York Times, 11/03/1999, pp. E1&4.

Questions about the relationship between the art market and academic curatorial research are appropriate.  As Mr. Kimmelman wrote in this article, "Impressions are important in these affairs.  What Brooklyn did by soliciting money from people with direct financial involvement in the works in the exhibition was at the dubious extreme of museum practice, if it wasn't unethical, and it certainly makes a very bad impression by creating the image that Brooklyn is for sale.  The museum was additionally foolish to have dissembled about the financing."

The Times article continued, "Believing that Christie's does not plan to sell works by the artists in 'Sensation' or that Mr. Saatchi was not thinking about the enhanced value of his collection when he entered into his agreement with Brooklyn is simply naive.  He sold works at Christie's after 'Sensation' was in London.  Collectors often sell works after exhibitions."

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Armani Gift to the Guggenheim Revives Issue of Art and Commerce, Carol Vogel, New York Times, 12/15/1999, pp. E1&3.

Questions about academic and curatorial research are confounded by the lack of transparency in art institutions enjoying public funding, a transparency required in every other field of scholarship and research.

In this article, Ms. Vogel wrote that "The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum announced last month that it would pay homage to the Italian designer Giorgio Armani next fall with a major retrospective of his work.  The museum will turn its rotunda over to his ball gowns and pants suits and tuxedos, providing a breathtaking backdrop for an opening soiree and adding even more luster, if such a thing is possible, to the fashion designer's name."

And the article disclosed that "What the museum did not acknowledge was that some eight months earlier, Mr. Armani had become a sizable benefactor to the Guggenheim.  The size of his contribution has not been disclosed, but one participant in museum meetings at which it was discussed said it would eventually amount to $15 million, an initial $5 million with a pledge to donate $10 million more over the next three years."

Here too, the Times reported what was said in defense:  "Asked about the gift, museum officials said it was part of a 'global partner sponsorship,' gifts that can go to Guggenheim projects anywhere in the world, and denied that was a quid pro quo for organizing the Armani show.  The show is being sponsored by the fashion and celebrity magazine In Style, in which Armani is an advertiser."

The Guggenheim had also been questioned about it its 'Art of the Motorcycle' exhibition sponsored by BMW.

The article reported the response of James N. Wood, then director of the Art Institute of Chicago.  "'Do we need to be sensitive about these relationships?' he asked.  'Absolutely.  While there are tremendous pressures on museums to become more competitive, that's not a hunting license to do anything.  In the end you have to be ready to defend the quality of what you're doing.  And if money is involved, there's all the more pressure to justify it.'"

The article includes key questions:  "At what point does a contribution influence a museum's presentation of art in a way that compromises curatorial standards?" and "Do other artists or designers equally worthy of shows fail to get them because they lack the deep pockets of a collector or large company like, say Armani?"

The Times article also quoted Marie C. Malaro, a retired director of the graduate program in museum studies at George Washington University in Washington who is also an attorney:  "For some experts, the answer is simple.  'If it looks bad, it is bad'. . . .  Of the Armani-Guggenheim affiliation she said, 'You wonder how they can say there's no relationship with a straight face.'"

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'Sensation,' Gone but Still Provocative, Judith H. Dobrzynski, New York Times, 02/14/2000, p. E1.

Here the Times reports on a rare beam of light cast on the relationship between art research and art commerce.  It writes, "'The whole controversy has been high entertainment and good instruction,' said W.T.J. Mitchell, an art historian at the University of Chicago whose fledgling cultural policy program organized the one-day conference . . . .  One thing I liked about the show is that it burst open the relationship between art and commerce.'"

Ms. Dobrzynski wrote further, "Even more was revealed at the conference.  Gilbert S. Edelson, administrative vice president of the Art Dealers Association of America, surprised many participants with the statement that some museums take a commission on sales of new art exhibited on their walls, just as dealers do."

Bringing to mind a certain quote from Casa Blanca, the Times reported that, "James Cuno, the director of the Harvard University Art Museums, said he was shocked and called the practice inappropriate. . . .  Thelma Golden, who was a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art for 10 years, said that the Whitney did it."

But what the Times reported was so extensive that it could not have been a surprise.  The article explained, that "Mr. Edelson also cited other museum practices that muddled the distinctions between museums and dealers."  And the article wrote "'We are pleased to welcome many museums to the ranks of art dealers,' Mr. Edelson said to laughter.  "We await their application to join the Art Dealers Association of America.'"

The article describe Dr. Cuno stating that "'Once one loses respect, it takes a long time to recover'" and that Dr. Lehman "ended up reinforcing the appearance that the museum is a bastion of the elite united in the collusion of self-interest."

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Guidelines on Exhibiting Borrowed Objects, Editorial, New York Times, 08/04/2000, p. A26.

Concerning the sudden creation of the new ethical code of the American Association of Museums the Times wrote:  "The guidelines . . . were written largely in response to questions about financing, undue influence and possible conflicts of interest in staging the 'Sensation' exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art last year.  The art in that show was owned by Charles Saatchi, who also contributed $160,000 anonymously to the Brooklyn Museum and stood to gain if the show increases the value of the artwork."

The editorial also said "'Sensation' may have served as the immediate incentive for these guidelines, but in fact they address a set of basic conflicts that affects all museums.  Museums are supposed to serve as cultural cathedrals, repositories of our most significant artifacts.  Yet art makes its way to museums in ways that are often labyrinthine, closely caught up in the politics of power and money, the push and pull of international art markets, individual collectors and powerful patrons.  The public has had no way of knowing whether an exhibition of borrowed objects represented the best artistic judgment of the professional curators, or was staged at the behest of hidden donors."

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A Crisis of Fakes, Peter Landesman, Sunday New York Times Magazine, 03/18/2001, pp. 36+.

The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is looked to as an authority in art research. Between 1988 and 1992, the Getty had paid more than $1 million dollars for six drawings attributed to Renaissance masters including Raphael. Nicholas Turner, who became the curator of the Getty's European drawings collection in 1993, was certain that they were forgeries.

"Turner is widely recognized as one of the world's most distinguished drawings curators.  He was in charge of Italian and French drawings at the British Museum for more than 20 years; during that same period, he catalogued more than 800 drawings from Queen Elizabeth's private collection.  In 1990, he was part of the team of curators that assembled an acclaimed exhibit at the British museum, 'Fake?  The Art of Deception.'"

"The Getty lured Turner from London in 1994 with the promise of unfettered research latitude, unparalleled purchasing power and, of course, the glamour of its name.  The Getty is, by far, the wealthiest art museum in the world, with an endowment of roughly $5 billion."

In 1996 Turner informed the Director, John Walsh, and his deputy, Deborah Gribbon, and then informed the trustees in writing about the drawings' dubious authenticity.  "But a week later, Turner says, he received word from Walsh that he was to say nothing."

Turner "was respected by his peers but roundly disliked." "Colleagues at the Getty considered him mean, condescending and unpleasant."  Assistant Kathleen Kibler "filed a formal complaint of sexual harassment with the Getty [against Turner], which the museum investigated but did not uphold, though it did caution Turner."

In 1997, Turner sued the museum for defamation and settled out of Court.  "In the settlement, Turner received a mid-six-figure payment from the Getty, plus a promise to publish his book."  Part of the book was devoted to the forgery allegations.  But the book was never published by Getty.

"Just before Christmas, upon learning of this article [in the Sunday New York Times], Getty lawyers filed a motion with the court-appointed arbitrator in Los Angeles to keep Turner from discussing anything discovered during the case."  The presiding arbitrator rejected the Getty's attempt to gag Turner.

Getty's lawyer wrote Turner "that the Getty 'paid him [Turner] a significant sum of money" to waive forever any dispute he had against the museum, including his claim that 'his predecessor acquired drawings which were not authentic.'"

"The implications of this controversy are far from trivial.  Each year, tens of millions of museum goers walk through the entrance of the Getty, or the Metropolitan or the Prado or the Hermitage, and never consider the possibility of having to arbitrate for themselves the authenticity of what they have come to see.  A museum's meticulous presentation — exhaustive captions, hushed lighting, state-of-the-art armature — creates an institutional authority that is constructed to seem impregnable."

"But by gagging the forgery claim of its own expert, the Getty reveals a museum culture defined as much by commerce, politics and academic provincialism as by a commitment to accurate art history.  No one suggests that there is a conspiracy to purchase known forgeries. But once substantive challenges to authenticity are made, for a museum like the Getty to revert to a code of silence seems ill advised."

"'I see museums in a completely different light now,' he [Turner] says.  'I find the employees caught up in institutional issues, like politics.  They're not studying the material as museum professionals, as independent academics.  They don't produce scholarship. Museum culture has become much more bureaucratic and caught up in entertainment issues and politics.  Big exhibitions have become a public entertainment. Spectacle has overwhelmed serious study.'"

"But the knowledge that we don't always know what is real — and neither, always, do museums — infects us with doubts that corrupt all of our other dealings with the culturally sacred.  Experts are fallible.  We have to take responsibility for what we look at.

"'If a museum contains things which are inauthentic,' [Mark] Jones [head curator of the British Museum's "Fake?" exhibition] says, 'then what it is saying becomes a lie.'"

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Smithsonian Group Criticizes Official on Donor Contract, Elaine Sciolino, New York Times, 05/26/2001, p. 8.

In this article Ms. Sciolino wrote that "A group of curators and scholars at the Museum of American History has accused Lawrence M. Small, the Smithsonian Institution's secretary, of jeopardizing the integrity of the institution and breaching standard museum practices because of agreements he has reached with multi-million-dollar donors."

This is a particularly interesting report because, like the Times reporting on the financial controversy at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, it discloses pressing professional ethical concerns voiced by curatorial staff in response to questionable administrative actions.  "'We feel obliged to speak out about recent decisions by Secretary Small that we believe jeopardize the integrity and authority of this beloved institution,' said the memorandum, which was signed by curators, scholars and other researchers at the American history museum.  'Secretary Small's decisions circumvent established decision-making procedures and seem certain to commit our museum to unethical relationships with private donors.'"

The article wrote about the protests of the branch of the Smithsonian-wide Congress of Scholars at the National Museum of American History in response to the announcement of a $38 million gift to the museum by the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation.

Ms. Sciolino wrote, "'A solid majority' of the members of the group, comprised of about 70 curators, scholars and other researchers at the museum, signed the protest memorandum, said Helena Wright a curator at the museum and vice chairwoman of the congress."

"The memorandum asked pointedly, 'Will the Smithsonian Institution actually allow private founders to rent space in a public museum for the expression of private interests and personal views?'"

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Gifts That Can Warp a Museum, Editorial, New York Times, 05/31/2001, p. A26.

The editors wrote:  "Early this month the Smithsonian Institution announced a $38 million gift from the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation to create a permanent exhibition in the National Museum of American History devoted to the lives of American achievers."

"Achievement is unquestionably good, as is Ms. Reynolds's desire to motivate young people.  Nonetheless, this is a questionable donation, representing the kind of gift-giving that can warp an institution's priorities and professionalism.  The gift will force the Smithsonian to devote space and intellectual energy to a permanent exhibit.  But is this the kind of exhibit that the Smithsonian's professional staff would have chosen if the gift had come with no strings attached?  If not, what is the curatorial rationale for a permanent exhibit that seems to open the door for commercial and corporate influence at one of the capital's keystone institutions?"

"Nothing could better dramatize the current plight of the Smithsonian than the entangling quality of this gift."

The editorial continued, "In an unusual abdication of power by the museum, Ms. Reynolds's foundation, according to its contract with the Smithsonian, will get to propose nominees for 10 of the 15 seats on the committee that will select individuals to be featured in the exhibition.  The Smithsonian staff itself will nominate the remaining five. . . . Ms. Reynold's nominees will have effective control of the selection committee and thus considerable influence over the content of this permanent exhibition.  This is one reason a group of scholars and curators at the Museum of American History complained to the Smithsonian's board that Mr. Small [the museum's director] was jeopardizing the institution's integrity through his relationships with private donors."

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Smithsonian Must Exhibit Ingenuity in the Face of Overlapping Gifts, Elaine Sciolino, New York Times, 08/06/2001, pp. E1-3.

In this article Ms. Sciolino wrote about another incident at the national museum:  "The institution's National Museum of American History has accepted two gifts for permanent exhibitions that cover much of the same ground and together take up about 10 percent of the museum's exhibition space.  The gifts come from two of the museum's largest donors, so museum officials are now in the unusual position of trying to determine how to honor both contracts."

The article referred to the $38 million pledge from the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation (described above) and wrote that, "the museum and its advisory board realized only belatedly that the project overlapped with one that was financed last year with part of an $80 million gift from Kenneth E. Behring, a California real estate developer.  His was the largest gift in the Smithsonian's history and followed a gift of $20 million he made in 1997."

This article described how "About $20 million of Mr. Behring's $80 million is to pay, this contract with the Smithsonian says, for a 'thematic hall' that will focus on 'American legends and legacies' and be 'a tribute to deceased individuals who made great contributions to our country and who truly epitomize the American spirit.'"

The Times then reported an incredible official statement:  "Ivan Selin, the chairman of the museum, said the museum did not realize the potential conflict between the two exhibitions until it was too late.  'The museum didn't accept the Reynolds gift knowing that we had a conflict with the Behring gift,' he said.  'Only as we looked into it did it become clear that there was overlap and that the potential for duplication and confusion was high. We don't know how this is going to work out right now.'"

In the article the chairman explains that the negotiations "were largely carried out by Lawrence M. Small, the Smithsonian's secretary, and Sheila Burke, an under secretary, with little input from the museum staff and its board".

The article described that "Some museum professionals charge that Mr. Small has allowed wealthy donors to dictate the nature and content of the museum's exhibitions.  The museum, like the Smithsonian as a whole receives 70 percent of its funds from Congress."  Ms. Sciolino wrote that there were professional concerns about the "breach established standards of museum practice and professional ethics" and that the "Organization of American Historians has asked the regents to reconsider the agreement with Ms. Reynolds, calling reports about the role of private donors in shaping museum exhibitions troubling."

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Another Smithsonian Director Resigns, Elaine Sciolino, New York Times, 09/20/2001, p. F3.

In this article, Ms. Sciolino wrote that "Spencer R. Crew, director of the Smithsonian Institutions' National Museum of American History, unexpectedly announced his resignation today [9/19/01]."

She described that "He is the 4th of the Smithsonian's 16 museum directors to resign or retire since January 2000, when Lawrence M. Small became secretary of the institution, the world's largest museum and research complex."

The article noted that "he had complained to colleagues that he had been left out of important negotiations between Mr. Small and donors.  He was also said to be distressed by what he and other directors characterized as a loss of autonomy under Mr. Small."

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And Now, an Exhibition From Our Sponsor, Robin Pogrebin, New York Times, 08/23/2009, pp. AR1&21.

This article reported on the growing incident of prepacked exhibitions of art owned by banks as investments being used by museums in lieu of them doing their own research.

The article described the issue:  "Since the 1960s, when Chase Manhattan Bank assembled one of the first major corporate art collections under the guidance of its president, David Rockefeller, banks and other large companies have been acquiring fine art as a way to give their offices a cultured, dignified aura.  Over time many companies have expanded these collections — with in-house curators to oversee them — and lent works to museums and other exhibiton spaces, mostly for marketing reasons."

The Times continued:  "But a few corporations, including JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank and UBS,have occasionally gone a step further, lending out complete shows.  And Bank of America has lately gone further still, creating a roster of ready-made shows that it provides to museums at a nominal cost to them — essentially turn key exhibitions.

Since 2007 these corporate names appear frequently in the news regarding taxpayer bailouts and/or lawsuits.

This is a long, detailed, and urgently important article for anyone concerned about the interaction of commerce and finance and art museums.  Reading it, there are several things to keep in mind which are not emphasized in the article.

First, the sole and overarching activity of these financial institutions is to "grow" their wealth, and everything else is secondary at best.  Their art collections are multimillion dollar investments which the banks fully intend to generate interest for them.   This primary focus for these banks didn't really come across in this article.

Second, art museums enjoy considerable financial support from taxpayers to serve the public.  They are not supported by the public to help generate profitable interest for the assests bought, sold, and otherwise manipulated by private investment and commercial banks.

Third, many of these very same financial institutions have recently sought enormous financial bailouts from the public and/or have been sued by the federal government.  And while their inexpensive pre-curated exhibitions might seem to be a generous offer, the financial crisis they have caused this decade and the subsequent historic recession and the multi-billion dollar bailouts are major reasons why cultural and educational institutions like art museums are more financially compromised than ever.

Ms. Pogrebin gathered a wide spectrum of views in her article.  Some views expressed caution and concern about what is promoted as a helpful opportunity for financially stressed art museums.  Some views expressed delight if the acceptance and use by art museums of the prepackaged exhibitions resulted in the work's increase market value for the financial institutions owning the work.

The article focused primarily on the question of curatorial control, which of course was a major issue regarding the earlier scandals with "Sensation" at the Brooklyn Museum and donations with conditions at the Smithsonian.  With these prepackaged exhibitions, the curators are the investment and commercial banks, and not the art museums.  All the art museums do is provide the temporary housing.

What are the academic research guidelines and research ethics underlying the curatorial selection and explication of art research and art exhibitions.  The Times articles didn't say.

Time and time again, financial and commercial considerations seem to be the determining factors.

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New Ethical Standards Set for Museums, Irvin Molotsky, New York Times, 11/17/2001, pp. A15, 21.

In August 2000, the American Association of Museums issued its "New Ethical Guidelines."  But the controversies in the museum world grew so great, that the AAM issued additional guidelines.

Mr. Molotsky reported that "Concerned about public perceptions that museums and other nonprofit organizations are not operating under the highest ethical standards in their relations with the businesses on which they increasingly rely, the American Association of Museums issued a set of guidelines today and asked its members to follow them."

The Times wrote that "'The whole point of the guidelines,' said Edward H. Able, the association's president, 'is what the public has taken for granted in the behavior and ethics of nonprofits.  They want to know that nonprofits are operating in an ethical and appropriate way.'"

The article highlighted a very important reality:  "One person who participated in the issuance of the guidelines said:  'The situation between museums and businesses has become more complex.  It is less and less straightforward philanthropy but, rather, more out of the marketing departments, which have direct, specific goals.'"  Again this raised concerns about the absence of transparency in how museums conduct the research they claim underlies their opinions and decisions.

The Times continued, "Asked why there seemed to have been an increase in ethical breaches by museums lately, Mr. Able said, 'Many of their actions have occurred out of naïveté or failure to think through a situation.'"

[The attention contemporary art receives in academic and curatorial research seems to have significant parallels with commercial market prices.  Serious complaints about this, as well as professional acknowledgements of this, have been reported in the news.

There is little open dialogue about recommended guidelines in academic research and little transparency.  The next Tab includes references to other professional fields where ethical discussions are encouraged.]