The decision of Valparaiso University to sell its art collection, including $ 15 million Georgia O’Keeffe painting, has caused a backlash.
The Valparaiso University in Indiana announced in an email on Wednesday that it plans to sell 3 paintings from its art collection. These works were by Georgia O’Keeffe, Childe Hassam, and Frederic Edwin Church. Most notable of these is the painting by George O’Keeffe – Rust Red Hills (1930) – which is expected to fetch $15 million in the market. Combined with the other two works, the sale could fetch $20 million for the university. Valparaiso University, which houses 3000 students, plans to use the money to build a new building for the first years.
However, the decision has come under scrutiny by the wider art community. In 2020 the Association of American Museum Directors (AAMD) relaxed its regulations around museums selling artworks from their collection. The decision was taken to help financially struggling museums and galleries during the pandemic. However, such sales have not achieved much success. In fact, the Baltimore Museum of Art canceled one such sale in 2020 due to intense backlash.
The most important reason behind the backlash is that the utilization of the funds from such sales is closely monitored. A joint letter by AAMD and three other groups of directors and curators argued that funds from such sales should be utilized directly in the maintenance of other artworks. While the Brauer Museum comes under Valparaiso University, it still doesn’t give the university the right to divert the funds toward the college. The decision was also derided by Richard H.W. Bauer, longtime director/curator of the museum, who threatened to have his name removed from the museum.