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Gilbert Stuart Portrait Of George Washington At Met Expected To Sell For $2.5M

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will sell a George Washington portrait by Gilbert Stuart, expected to fetch up to $2.5 million.

The painting, which is one of the hundred portraits made by Stuart of Washington was created in 1795 towards the end of Washington’s presidency. The Met has possessed the portrait for more than 80 years. The painting will go for auction at Christie’s next month, where it is expected to fetch between 1.5- 2.5 million dollars. While impressive, it is not close to breaking Gilbert Stuart‘s record which was set by another Washington portrait that was sold in 2018 for 11.5 million dollars.

The practice of selling artworks is not uncommon. In fact, the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) had issued guidelines about how museums could sell artworks for this purpose. The guidelines arrived during the COVID-19 pandemic, where many museums, even major ones, were struggling to remain afloat. This process, called deaccession, allows museums to sell artworks under their holding if they are deemed to be not in line with the museum’s future objectives, or if the institution already has duplicates of the artwork.

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The Met has de-accessioned many artworks since 2020. The George Washington portrait sold last week was also deaccessioned because the museum had another, similar portrait from 1775 in its collection. The most notable of the lot thus sold was a Pablo Picasso sculpture that sold for 45 million dollars in 2022. However, the practice has not been free of controversies. For instance, in 2022, the Baltimore Museum of Art tried to sell works by artists like Andy Warhol but had to back out at the last moment due to protest.