Baltimore Museum of Art to Sell Works by Masters Such As Andy Warhol, Will Aim to Improve Artist Diversity

Mary Carole McCauley, Baltimore Sun, April 13, 2018

The Baltimore Museum of Art announced Friday that it is selling seven artworks by such 20th-century masters as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Franz Kline to make way for pieces by contemporary artists of color and women.

Going up for sale at Sotheby’s in May are two artworks by Warhol (“Oxidation Painting” from 1978 and “Hearts” from 1979) and one each by Kline (“Green Cross” from 1956) and Rauschenberg (“Bank Job” from 1979). Rounding out the seven are three paintings by lesser-known artists: Kenneth Noland’s “Lapis Lazuli” from 1963 and “In-Vital” from 1982, along with Jules Olitski’s “Before Darkness II” from 1973.

Kline’s painting alone is expected to fetch between $6 and $8 million, while Warhol’s “Oxidation Painting,” should bring in between $2 million and $3 million, according to a spokesman for Sotheby’s in New York, which is handling the sales. Five works will be sold at auction on May 16 and 17, while two extremely large artworks — Warhol’s “Hearts” and the Rauschenberg — will be put up for private sale.

Museum director Christopher Bedford pointed out that the {snip} process of selling artworks from a museum collection, known as deaccession, “is a necessity to ensure the greatness of the collection going forward,” Bedford said. “All the major museums in this country deaccession annually as a matter of routine.”

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During the same meeting in which the museum’s board of trustees announced that it was selling the seven artworks, it also approved the purchase of nine artworks by contemporary artists, several of whom are black.

Bedford has spoken often of the necessity of ensuring that museums reflect the population of the cities in which they are located. Though the city of Baltimore is 63.7 percent black, according to 2010 census data, its flagship contemporary museum owns relatively few artworks by African-American artists.

The purchases will be one small step toward diversifying the museum’s collection. Among them are works by the artists Mark Bradford, John T. Scott and Jack Whitten, who are African-American, and Zanele Muholi, who is South African. The museum also purchased pieces by artists Sara VanDerBeek and Trevor Paglen, who are white. The seven artworks being sold — five paintings, one mural and one work that combines paint and silkscreen — all were created by white men.

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