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BMA Exterior. Photo by Maximilian Franz
BMA Exterior. Photo by Maximilian Franz

To Support the Effort, the BMA will Deaccession Paintings by Brice Marden, Clyfford Still, and Andy Warhol

BALTIMORE, MD (October 2, 2020)—The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) announced today details of its Endowment for the Future, an ambitious financial plan that will dedicate funds for the care of the collection and allow the museum to expand its ongoing diversity and equity programmatic initiatives by enacting greater structural change within the institution and increasing access for the community. As part of the plan, the BMA will maintain and increase salaries for staff throughout the museum, establish dedicated funds for DEAI programs, eliminate admission fees for special exhibitions, begin offering evening hours, and enhance its acquisition budget. The specifics for the Endowment for the Future, detailed below, emerged during the BMA’s temporary COVID-related shutdown, in alignment with the ongoing calls for radical thinking and change across the arts and culture sector. The BMA has successfully avoided staff layoffs and furloughs during this challenging period, and the plan reflects the museum’s focus on the future and its ability to continue to fulfill its mission to serve as a truly civic-minded institution. The Endowment for the Future was developed in accordance with the resolutions recently passed by the Association of Art Museum Directors.

To establish initial funds for the Endowment for the Future, the BMA will deaccession three works in its collection: 3 (1987-88) by Brice Marden, 1957-G (1957) by Clyfford Still, and The Last Supper (1986) by Andy Warhol. The paintings for deaccession were selected following extensive evaluation by the curatorial team to ensure that the narratives essential to the understanding of art history could continue to be told with depth and richness. The BMA has a significant post-war and modern art collection with important examples of Abstract Expressionism, Post-Minimalism, and late works by Warhol thanks to the work of former chief curator Brenda Richardson. The selection was reviewed and approved by the museum’s Board of Trustees on October 1, 2020.

The works will be sold by Sotheby’s this fall through public auction and private sale. Together, the three works are expected to generate approximately $65 million. Of this, $10 million will go to the museum’s acquisition fund, allowing it to rebalance its collection with an eye toward artworks made by women and artists of color, particularly as they interweave with the history and present of Baltimore. Along with a commitment to a more fulsome and accurate account of artistic achievement, the museum is committed to tracing socially grounded histories of western and non-western art through an emphasis on indigeneity, immigration, transnationalism, and the meetings of and clashes between cultures over time.

The museum will immediately dedicate $500,000 from the sale toward the creation and implementation of a comprehensive institutional plan for internal and external diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) initiatives and draw additional funds from the endowment for their continuation. The plan will be developed by a staff-led DEAI task force, drawn from across the institution with the assistance of industry-recognized consultants in the areas of racial and gender equity, disability, and indigeneity in the cultural sphere and Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, the museum’s Special Counsel on Strategic Initiatives. Anticipated initiatives include in-depth staff training on critical subjects such as unconscious bias, accessibility, and cultural competency; increased professional development opportunities to help establish a pipeline to sustainable museum careers; and the development and enactment of an institutional DEAI roadmap for both internal equity and external engagement.

Approximately $54.5 million will be used to endow a fund for the direct care of the collection. The BMA expects this will generate approximately $2.5 million in income per year, which will be used to offset costs for the research, conservation, documentation, and exhibition of artworks, as well as the salaries for 46 staff, including curators, registrars, conservators, preparators, art-handlers, administrative staff, and fellows. By adding $2.5 million from this new endowment to the BMA’s $20 million operating budget, the museum will be able to reallocate existing funds towards other priorities, particularly to secure and increase salaries for the rest of the staff. This includes individuals in front-of-house positions throughout the museum as well as roles across education, marketing, advancement, facilities, and other administrative areas and departments. The BMA expects that it will have the resources to increase both existing and starting salaries in phases, which will be implemented incrementally leading up to and into fiscal year 2023 (July 1, 2022).

As part of the Endowment for the Future, the BMA will also draw approximately $590,000 annually toward eliminating admission fees for its special exhibitions and most public programs and extending its evening hours to 9 p.m. one weekday per week. These initiatives work to decrease barriers to experiencing the full range of the museum’s presentations and events and build on prior efforts, such as the opening of the BMA’s secondary space at Lexington Market, to meet its community’s needs for regular and consistent access. By reducing the financial burden of museum visitation, the BMA aims to reach an even wider audience and encourage new engagement with the institution.

“Over the past several years, the BMA has placed considerable focus on issues of diversity and equity, whether in the scope of our collection, the range of our exhibitions and programs, or the makeup of our board and staff. While we have made great strides, we—the board and leadership of the BMA—have also recognized that more needs to be done to support and encourage the team that makes our museum a welcoming and engaging space for the community and equally to continue our efforts to inspire and expand the audiences that experience our collections, exhibitions, and events,” said Clair Zamoiski Segal, the BMA’s Board Chair. “The Endowment for the Future is a realization of these long-standing conversations and priorities and is an important next step toward fulfilling our strategic vision and toward embracing DEAI issues in real and tangible ways.”

The BMA’s Endowment for the Future is developed in accordance with the resolutions that the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) passed in April 2020 to refrain from censuring or sanctioning any museum that decides to use proceeds from deaccessioned art to pay for expenses associated with the direct care of its collections and/or to use restricted endowment funds, trusts, or donations for general operating expenses. As part of its fulfillment of AAMD’s resolution on direct care of the collection, the BMA has developed a policy outlining which expenses it considers to be part of direct care. The policy was approved by the Board of Trustees on September 16, 2020 and is publicly available on the museum’s website at artbma.org/collections/collections-care-policy.html. The policy places at its center the individuals who care for, interpret, and present the collection for the benefit of the community that the museum serves.

“The BMA’s Board of Trustees has been incredibly engaged as the museum continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and respond to calls for greater equity within cultural institutions. Their generosity and leadership ensured that the BMA could maintain and support its staff during its shutdown and beyond,” said Christopher Bedford, the BMA’s Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director. “At the same time, the board and I recognize that to truly live up to our mission and values, we need to continue to allocate resources toward diversity and equity measures and that those measures need to address both the substance and content of our collections, exhibitions, and programs, as well as the concerns of the people that create and engage with them. While we were already considering a deaccession to support our efforts to re-envision our collection prior to COVID, the passage of AAMD’s resolutions gave us an opportunity to use the proceeds from the sale to enact greater change within our museum. The Endowment for the Future is very much, as its name indicates, about the future—the future that we want for the BMA and for our community and a future that is responsive to our evolving social contexts and the many voices calling for change.”

Statement-Clair Zamoiski Segal, Board Chair

October 20, 2020

In the weeks since The Baltimore Museum of Art announced its plans to establish the Endowment for the Future, I have grown increasingly troubled by the suggestion that the BMA’s leadership has been derelict in its duty as stewards of the museum and its responsibility to the community. These accusations have no merit, and greatly diminish and misconstrue the long-standing, and in many instances, multi-generational, commitment of the members of the BMA’s Board of Trustees to the City of Baltimore and to the Museum that serves this community.

My connection to the BMA extends through decades. I grew up within its walls, as my family was deeply involved with the Museum as benefactors, and as members and leaders of the Board long before I came to serve on it. I understand the value of this institution because it is intrinsically tied to my own dedication to my community and the place where I learned to love art. In large part because of my history with the BMA, I have spent my professional and personal life investing in and advancing the arts in our city. Those who know me can attest to my many years of service to the arts within the Mayor’s Office and through philanthropic activity for educational, cultural, and artistic entities across Baltimore.

I first joined the BMA’s Board as a representative of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke in 1989 and became the Board Chair in 2015, following many years of engagement as a member, donor, and volunteer. I share my responsibilities with individuals who have equally deeply rooted relationships to the Museum, as well as newer voices, who are bringing fresh and important perspectives. In addition to raising money annually to support the Museum’s $18 million operating budget, over the past two and a half years alone the Board has contributed and/or raised an additional $16 million in endowment funds to support the work of the staff, including exhibitions, public programs, and endowing staff positions; $9,750,000 in private funding for critical building renovations and the creation of two study centers; and, perhaps most importantly, funds to ensure that even in this most difficult time that the BMA could maintain its full staff.

But to continue to evolve and create the museum we want—one that acknowledges the shortcomings of the past and one that serves our community most completely—we must take advantage of the different avenues available to us. This includes making well-researched and considered decisions around deaccessioning and the application of the sale proceeds. There is nothing short-sighted nor nefarious about deaccessioning. It is a regular practice, undertaken by every art museum in the United States. Assertions otherwise are simply a means of inflaming controversy and serve only to maintain the status quo of museums as repositories of riches serving the elite alone.

The greatness of the BMA’s collection does not live within three individual paintings. It lives within the narratives that the BMA can share, the voices it reflects within its walls, and the individuals that it can yet bring into the conversation. To suggest that the absence of these three works breaks the public trust omits the reality of the many individuals whose trust we have not yet won. We have not yet won that trust because we, along with many other museums, have been operating within a system that has excluded too many for far too long. This exclusion registers in the art history we represent in our galleries, in the extent of access we provide to that history, and it registers in those staff members we employ to shepherd and interpret these histories. Change is not easy. It requires letting go of some things to make space for others, it requires a measured and proportional sacrifice to achieve a just future, and it can take time before changes that seem radical in the moment become accepted as normal.

I voted in support of the BMA’s deaccessioning decision, as did a supermajority of voting board members—a simple fact that many commentators have omitted in their narration of events to serve their own purposes. We voted for this action not as a dereliction of duty, but as an acknowledgment of new opportunity and a means of enacting real and tangible change in service of our Museum’s mission and the strategic plan that we approved in 2018. The change brought about by the BMA’s Endowment for the Future will impact the shape of our collection, our ability to invite, accommodate, and connect with a greater swath of our community, and to honor the people who work at the BMA by paying them a fair and living wage. These are not abstract goals; these are priorities with lasting impact and with which museums need to be engaged. This is an effort to live our mission, and the change is necessary and long, long overdue.

We are proud of our decision and we look forward to continuing to serve our community and making them proud.

Clair Zamoiski Segal, Chair
Board of Trustees
The Baltimore Museum of Art

Statement-BMA Deaccessioning Pause

October 28, 2020
Today, The Baltimore Museum of Art’s (BMA) Board of Trustees and its leadership decided to pause on the upcoming sale of works by Brice Marden, Clyfford Still, and Andy Warhol. The decision was made after having heard and listened to the proponents and the detractors of the BMA’s ambitious Endowment for the Future and after a private conversation between the BMA’s leadership and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD).

As part of today’s statement, we want to affirm our goals as we envisioned them in relation to the Endowment for the Future. We believe unequivocally that museums exist to serve their communities through experiences with art and artists. We firmly believe that museums and their collections have been built on structures that we must work, through bold and tangible action, to reckon with, modify, and reimagine as structures that will meet the demands of the future. We believe that this effort is not about sacrificing history but about telling a more accurate and complete narrative of art, culture, and people. We do not abide by notions that museums exist to serve objects; we believe the objects in our collection must reflect, engage, and inspire the many different individuals that we serve.

The BMA was in touch with the AAMD leadership early this fall in advance of announcing its plans for the Endowment for the Future. In private and public statements, the AAMD affirmed that the BMA’s plans were in alignment and accordance with the resolutions it passed in April 2020. However, subsequent discussions and communications have made clear that we must pause our plans to have further, necessary conversations. The BMA is committed to the governance AAMD provides for the museum community.

This year has required great fortitude and great questioning. The calls for change within the museum field are right and just. For far too long, museums have made superficial efforts in enacting change. We have used exhibitions and programs to support the idea that we are diverse and inclusive. We are not. We have said change is important, but we have not taken the steps to enact it. The Endowment for the Future was developed to take action—right now, in this moment.

Our vision and our goals have not changed. It will take us longer to achieve them, but we will do so through all means at our disposal. That is our mission and we stand behind it.

About the Baltimore Museum of Art

Founded in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) inspires people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, programs, and collections that tell an expansive story of art—challenging long-held narratives and embracing new voices. Our outstanding collection of more than 95,000 objects spans many eras and cultures and includes the world’s largest public holding of works by Henri Matisse; one of the nation’s finest collections of prints, drawings, and photographs; and a rapidly growing number of works by contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. The museum is also distinguished by a neoclassical building designed by American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of modern and contemporary sculpture. The BMA is located three miles north of the Inner Harbor, adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, and has a community branch at Lexington Market. General admission is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.

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