However, as often happens with the nettlesome circumstances around museum deaccessions, these criticisms are well-intentioned, but not fully informed by the facts. This case is much more complex than it first appears, and the very solution the open letter has proposed—which is to identify “an alternative institution to house, preserve, and appropriately utilize this unique collection”—has already been pursued in earnest by the di Rosa Foundation’s leaders, unfortunately to no avail, despite these recent accusations of lassitude and myopia.
In 2017, I began to informally advise the executive director and the board of the di Rosa Foundation on just this possibility. Together, we pursued an outreach campaign to leading Bay Area museums and arts organizations, as the most likely means to both preserve the core collection and achieve an alliance that could help provide a bridge-work to a new mandate and possibly a long-term financial lifeline.
After much deliberation and meaningful attempts to come to an agreement, none of the major institutions in the Bay Area we approached were ultimately prepared to pursue such an outcome. Many viewed the collection as having a niche focus, with the additional challenge of many large installations and outdoor sculptures, and ultimately not a collection that would be in their core focus or a priority for their current collecting needs, given the financial and staff commitments such an absorption and alliance would entail. Every institution must pursue a collecting mandate commensurate with its own agenda and priorities. The absorption of a very large collection with a niche focus was not ultimately a priority for these other institutions, as much as they would have liked to help a sister organization in the Bay Area.