Brooklyn Museum sells 12 works (including Cranach and Courbet) due to financial problems

The Brooklyn Museum in New York is in severe financial crisis because of Covid and therefore decides to sell 12 works, including works by Cranach, Courbet, Corot and others.

In order to cope with the severe crisis that hit American museums during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Brooklyn Museum, one of the most important institutions not only in New York, but in the entire United States, has put twelve relevant works from its collection on the market to be auctioned by Christie’s. This was revealed by the New York Times.

The museum’s move, which would have been unthinkable and out of any norm until a few months ago, has been possible since theAssociation of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), the powerful association that effectively dictates the law when it comes to museums in the United States, gave the go-ahead for the sale of artworks for museums that are in financial distress because of the Covid-19 crisis. The Brooklyn Museum is now the first major museum to take advantage of this extraordinary AAMD grant.

“It’s tough for us,” said Brooklyn Museum Director Anne Pasternak. “But it is the best choice for the institution and to ensure longevity and care for the collections.” According to Pasternak’s estimates, the auction sale of the works is expected to provide the museum with resources of 40 million euros, all of which will be devoted exclusively to the care and maintenance of the collection (i.e., they will cover direct expenses, such as transportation and cleaning, and will be used to pay the salaries of workers involved in the maintenance of the works, such as curators, conservators, and registrars). Pasternak also made it known that the resources that will come from the sales will not be used for ongoing expenses (water, electricity, and various utilities), exhibitions, or events.

Among the works that will go up for auction (in two rounds: one on Oct. 1 and one on the 15th) is one of the museum’s major masterpieces, Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Lucretia, with an estimate of $1.8 million. The Oct. 1 auction will feature works by Gustave Courbet, Camille Corot, Hendrik Willem Mesdag, Charles-François Daubigny, Philip Wilson Steer, Jean-Georges Vibert, and an anonymous Dutchman. On the 15th, however, it will be the turn of Cranach’s Lucretia and works by Donato de’ Bardi and Giovanni dal Ponte, plus a portrait attributed to Lorenzo Costa and a Saint Anne and Saint Joachim attributed to Francesco Botticini. The works’ files have already been removed from the museum’s website.

For the Brooklyn Museum, this is not the first sale of a work: in the United States, it is in fact considered acceptable for a museum to sell a work in order to acquire others with which to enrich its collection. In fact, last November, the New York museum had sold, for $6.6 million, a Francis Bacon Pope in an auction at Sotheby’s. Now, the decision to dispose of 12 masterpieces marks an extremely significant precedent. It was not an easy decision, however, although Pasternak stresses that “works that have never been shown, or have been shown infrequently, are not the focus of our mission. Not all museums have giant financial supports and not all have billionaires among their board members.” Finally, the director poses a question, “what is more important, having an appropriately sized conservation staff, or works that never see the light of day?”

Pictured are works by Cranach(Lucretia), Donato de’ Bardi(St. Jerome) and Botticini(St. Anne and St. Joachim, attributed) going up for auction.

Brooklyn Museum sells 12 works (including Cranach and Courbet) due to financial problems
Brooklyn Museum sells 12 works (including Cranach and Courbet) due to financial problems

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