Deaccessioning is the permanent removal of an object from a museum’s collection. And there are a lot of rules surrounding it — for one, selling art to pay off debt will get you in big trouble.
The Delaware Art Museum is in hot water right now for selling one of their paintings to try to chip away at a looming $19.8 million debt balance. If they own it, it should be no problem, right? Well, apparently permanently removing an object, called “deaccessioning”, is a touchy subject with more than a few rules, including one: don’t sell art to pay off debt. The Association of Art Museum Directors wrote the guidelines and according to the Association’s current president, “The proceeds from the sale or funds from the deaccession can only be used to buy other works of art.”
The offense is so severe, in fact, that the AAMD has called for other museums to stop working with the Delaware Art Museum. Some people feel as though the guidelines are a bit strict. How can a museum keep itself afloat with no way to increase cash flow? Perhaps rules should be reconsidered during extreme circumstances.