• The accreditation rules this author discusses were put in place for a very good reason: to prevent museums experiencing temporary financial setbacks from selling off our shared cultural heritage to private collectors to raise enough money to keep the lights on. Selling off your long-term capital to pay operating expenses is bad news for any business, and there’s a reason why the Association of Art Museum Directors frowns on it. The idea of a museum selling artwork to endow free admission for all, forever, is noble, but the reality of a museum selling its treasures to sit in a billionaire’s house is far less palatable.

    • “but the reality of a museum selling its treasures to sit in a billionaire’s house is far less palatable.”

      If the public rarely if ever gets to see the pieces in question, what difference does it make if they end up in a private collection?

  • Pieces in private collections are less likely to be available to scholars, so there is some virtue in their being in museums.

    • That’s some expensive “virtue”- balancing access only to the occasional scholar of the vast majority of a museum’s collection against free access to the public of the museum’s current display in perpetuity. Not the policy choice I would likely make.

    • What ever value there is in having art pieces in museums that are only accessible to scholars accrues only to the scholars, not to the general public that funds the museum.

      Perhaps the scholars should try persuading their universities to purchase some of the works for scholarly study in the art and history departments rather than relying on access to museum pieces not available to the public.

  • Add to the discussion that idea that museums are overstocked with art works to the point where much of their collection never see the light. Not even hypothetical scholars. At least if an “evil billionaire” had it, it would be seen once in a while and its preservation costs would be shifted off the public.

    We so often forget that many of the works of fine art that exist in museums today exist at all because private collectors bought them, collected them, preserved them, and then donated them to museums.