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Loan Exhibitions and Private Collectors

Geoff Edgers raises some important issues about exibitions of material from private collections ("Jade sale creates complications for MFA", Boston Globe, November 24, 2007), He discusses the Alan and Simone Hartman collection of Chinese Jade which was exhibited ("Chinese Jades from the Hartman Collection") at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts from August 2003 to November 2004.

The first part of the collection was subsequently sold at Christie's Hong Kong in 2006 and the second part this coming week. Edgers writes:
Some museum ethics experts and officials say it is disturbing to see an entire collection up for auction so soon after being displayed at the MFA. They raise questions about a nonprofit museum giving its imprimatur to works owned by wealthy collectors who are generous donors to the institution. Some say that the Hartmans, who run an antique business in New York, put the MFA in an awkward position with the sale.

Malcolm Rogers, the director of the MFA, has commented on the decision to hold the exhibition:
It's an area of jades that have been little shown in recent decades, an area once thought unfashionable ... We wanted to bring a great collection that was little known to the Boston public.

But do institutional policies need to anticipate such exhibitions and subsequent sales?

Millicent Gaudieri, executive director of the Association of Art Museum Directors observed:
I would believe that any museum would have some kind of written agreement in terms of the collector's ability to sell works en masse ... The donors moved too rapidly.


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