The Baltimore Museum of Art is selling seven works, including two Warhols and a Rauschenberg.
The Maryland museum’s board voted unanimously to deaccession the works, which will be sold at Sotheby’s postwar and contemporary evening and day sales in May, in order to clear up space in the acquisitions budget to add works by women and artists of color to the collection. According to a report in the Baltimore Sun, Andy Warhol’s Oxidation Painting (1978) is expected to fetch between $2 million to $3 million, while Green Cross (1956), a work by Franz Kline, could bring in between $6 million to $8 million. A work by Robert Rauschenberg along with another by Warhol will be sold privately by Sotheby’s. The museum will also part with pieces by Kenneth Noland and Jules Olitski. While it’s often controversial for a museum to sell art from its permanent collection, the museum brass maintains that it is simply a routine pruning of the holdings (the BMA already has over 90 Warhols, for example) and that the budgetary headroom provided by the sale will allow the BMA to focus on diversifying the artists represented in its collection. “It’s just a refining of the collection and will permit us to bring in other pieces we would not be able to afford at this point,” board chair Clair Zamoiski Segal told the Sun. It remains to be seen if the museum will receive public pushback on the plans, especially in light of the extremely controversial sale of art by the Berkshire Museum, also slated for Sotheby’s next month. While that sale garnered fierce criticism from museum groups for violating industry guidelines around deaccessioning, the BMA’s plans to channel the money raised by the sales back into its collection do not run afoul of museum rules.