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New Albright-Knox Acquisitions Do Not Replace What Was Sold

With all due respect to longtime art critic Jack Foran, I must disagree with the basic premise of his review of the Albright-Knox exhibition, Decade: Contemporary Collecting 2002-2012 (“Artscene,” Artvoice v11n37). Foran states, “This is the new art that replaced the objects of older eras that was sold off to buy more current stuff in the hope of keeping the gallery in the forefront among modern and contemporary world art venues.” This statement, which sets up the entire review, is misleading in a number of ways.

To imply that the museum spent the funds raised by the deaccession sale with the intent of somehow “replacing” the auctioned art with newer work is factually wrong, and a misrepresentation of the circumstances. The Albright-Knox has always collected new work. The practice didn’t begin with the 2007 deaccession and it won’t end with the work in this show. Consider that everything collected in the first half of the decade represented in the exhibition, was acquired pre-deaccession. Additionally, a large portion of the work collected over the past 10 years came in the form of several major high-profile donations, as well as from many individual smaller donations.

Foran prompts viewers to compare the newly acquired art to the auctioned work it supposedly replaced as if it were trendy new living room furniture bought take the place of Grandma’s discarded antiques. Readers might understandably be misled into thinking that all or most of the money raised by the deaccession was spent on the art now on view. Rather, the deaccession funds were added to an existing acquisition endowment, of which only five percent is spent annually. The intent of course is that the endowment will grow and so will the value of that five percent, though I have no idea what havoc the recession played with this plan. Regardless, the dollars earned in the deaccession have not been spent and never will be.

I understand that there are widely divergent views on the desirability of the deaccession. That’s not the point here. It’s a disservice to readers and to the museum staff to portray the newly acquired work as replacements for anything.

- Bruce Adams, Buffalo

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