Baltimore Museum Announces Sale Of Warhol and Other Masterpieces By White Artists To Purchase Works By Non-White Artists

Warhol-Campbell_Soup-1-screenprint-1968One of the great qualities of art is that it can transcend social, political, and ethnic divisions in appealing to the aesthetic and concepts of beauty or meaning.  While the backgrounds and periods of artists often inform the viewing of their work, it is the art not the artist that it is focus most people.  The Baltimore Museum of Art, however, cannot separate the race of the artist from the art.  It is selling masterpieces by white painters to buy art of non-white artists in a move that its own director, Christopher Bedford calls “an unusual and radical act to take.” This will include work by by Andy WarholRobert Rauschenberg, and other masterpieces because the artists are white.

Bedford calls this a “transformative” moment that reflects the fact that “the most important artists working today, in my view, are black Americans.”

Bedford came on board in 2016 as the 10th director at the museum — replacing a director who led the museum for 17 years.

 “Deaccessioning” is not a new concept but the decision to unload major works on the basis of race is indeed a radical departure from past practices.  Rather than focus on the art, Bedford sees his function as matching the race of artists to the racial preferences and makeup of the population: “I don’t think it’s reasonable or appropriate for a museum like the BMA to speak to a city that is 64 percent black unless we reflect our constituents.”  Does that mean that museums in cities with equal percentages of whites can now reject art based on the non-White identity of the artists?
I hardly view that effort as redeeming but rather regressive to a time when artists were judged not by their art but their race.  There was a time when black artists found themselves shut out from galleries or museums.  That changed due to the transcendence of artistic value and meaning.

 

68 thoughts on “Baltimore Museum Announces Sale Of Warhol and Other Masterpieces By White Artists To Purchase Works By Non-White Artists

  1. As usual, Turley makes his point in a calm and reasoned way. I am inclined to accept the action on the BMA — assuming that deaccessioning is necessary in order to afford acquisition of new work. It is true that museums today need to find ways to broaden their audiences, and Baltimore does have a substantial Black population they want to appeal to.

    Turley’s point, “regressive to a time when artists were judged not by their art but their race” is the crux of the issue, I think, making me think of the exceptional women artists of old who were ignored because of their gender.

    Fortunately, not regressive to Savonarola’s times — the Warhols and Rauschenbergs are being sold (hopefully for public display elsewhere) and not burned!

    • and Baltimore does have a substantial Black population they want to appeal to.

      About 35% of the population of greater Baltimore is black (and, one might wager) about 15% of the population interested in visual arts. It wasn’t all that different a generation ago when they were collecting the Warhol works. The marginal benefit in black attendance from sticking black artists on the wall w/o regard to aesthetic judgment might be bupkis + 1.

      The whole point of philanthropy is that you exercise some reserve in re salability.

      • BMA director Christopher Bedford thinks “the most important artists working today are black Americans.” Not everyone agrees with such a sweeping generalization, of course, but since that’s his aesthetic judgment, it’s no surprise that he’s taking this action. I assume he had to convince the Board that it was the right thing to do, and that in itself is interesting to me.

        • You mean an aesthetic judgment which just happens to be congruent with the biases incorporated into the work of college admissions offices. Here’s a suggestion: the guy’s a careerist hustler who knows which buttons to push.

  2. I think this is a great idea! It should be expanded! What they should do is fire about half the liberal white professors and hire people of color and transgenders and whatever other kind of oppressed victims they can find in their place! Oh, and maybe half or so of white Museum Directors, and replace them!

    The professors should not mind giving up their sinecures in the name of Racial and Gender Justice!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  3. OK They could have just included the Black Art they wanted instead of selling off the others, unless it was an economic move and the funds were needed to make the change.

  4. PS: Wake up! Art is PC. Woke art! Go against that grain and be banned by the PC art directors and other apparatchiks. But go against it anyhow! An artist should stand for truth, NOT for art career. Sadly, rare is the artist/poet who follows that m.o….

    G. Tod Slone, PhD (Université de Nantes, FR), aka P. Maudit,
    Founding Editor (1998)
    The American Dissident, a 501c3 Nonprofit Journal of Literature, Democracy, and Dissidence
    http://www.theamericandissident.org
    wwwtheamericandissidentorg.blogspot.com
    todslone@hotmail.com
    217 Commerce Rd.
    Barnstable, MA 02630

  5. LOL RE Turley’s last sentence: “That changed due to the transcendence of artistic value and meaning.” Yeah, the soup can!

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