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Council for Artists Rights

$31M Rothko Secret Sale article by Dallas

Morning News fails its readership

Omits crucial statements in Dallas Museum of Art "Fast

Forward" catalogue which refutes museum donors' public

May 18, 2010

Dear Ally of artists' rights:

Yesterday's article written by Michael Cranberry, "Dallas art

collector's suit says Rothko resale violated secrecy," falls short by
not addressing the bigger issue of the questionable structure of
the Dallas Museum of Art's "permanent collection" policy.

Undeniable evidence in the Dallas Museum of Art's own

catalogue "Fast Forward: Contemporary Collections for the Dallas
Museum of Art" about the 2007 museum exhibition with the same
name clearly contradicts and is a challenge to each of the
comments being quoted in Granberry's article made by the Dallas
Museum of Art, Marguerite Hoffman and Howard Rachofsky.

In 2007 the Dallas Museum of Art mounted an exhibition titled

"Fast Forward: Contemporary Collections for the Dallas Museum
of Art" featuring some of the $400 million in promised gifts of
artwork donated to the museum by Dallas
residents. In conjunction with the exhibit, the DMA published a
catalogue with the same name. On page 4 a simple and clear
statement is made, "...unless otherwise noted, all works
illustrated in this catalogue are either partial or
promised gifts to the Dallas Museum of Art or are currently in the
permanent collection." Further, on page 21 the museum's own
director states, "The grand utterly transforming moment came in
2005 when the Hoffmans, Rachofskys and
Roses joined to commit to the Museum by irrevocable (added
emphasis) bequest their entire collections..."

As any federal prosecutor would say, there it is folks, in black

and white.

It is virtually unheard of for a modern day not-for-profit U.S. art

museum to have a policy whereby it accepts promises of donated
works of art into its permanent collection and, soon after,
completely reverses itself and permits
those same works to be sold by the promising donor to a private
buyer for the donor's personal profit. Private transactions like
that recently happened, twice, at the DMA. That sort of flip flop
by a museum raises questions about the ulterior
motives of the donors and by extension the museum's executive
management. Did the museum accept the gifts with the
proverbial wink and nod? Is the museum a willing partner to
donor's visions of reaping financial windfalls by acquiring artwork,
letting it accrue the museum's prestige with the resultant
exponential increase in monetary value when later sold? Savvy
and others come away with that perception.

Why was not the DMA former director John R. Lane questioned
about his "irrevocable" statement made in the "Fast Forward"
catalogue? Why has not the DMA opened its vault to the
agreements made by each of the promising donors? What
assurance does the museum-goer and the general public have
that the third remaining promising donor, the Roses, are not (and
have not) hatching similar shenanigans?
We are not alone in voicing this concern about the art world in
the U.S. The nonprofit Rand Corporation in 2005 published "A
Portrait of the Visual Arts: Meeting the Challenges of a New Era"
which echoes the concern of many. In
its conclusion the Rand Corporation states "We suspect that as
long as museums, in particular, continue to respond quickly and
concertedly to each controversy with public reprimands and new
policies and guidelines, new government
regulations of museums are unlikely." If visual arts organizations
do not police themselves, toothy government regulations will do it
for them.

It appears art market speculation is taking place at the DMA.

Perhaps it is time to call in U.S. Senator Charles "Chuck" Grassley
(R-Iowa). He has in the past championed investigations into the
operations of nonprofit organizations and is widely considered to
be legendary in this arena. There is a "whistleblower" website
devoted to addressing nonprofit roguery and his campaigns are
well covered by the press. Are those connected to this
regrettable museum episode prepared to give sworn testimony
about their fiduciary responsibility?

The Council for Artists Rights is based in Chicago, IL USA.

As arts activist, its thrust is to educate the public about artists'
rights and advocates for artists whose work is in distress. CFAR
was spontaneously born in 2004 when devotees of public art
learned a city park district had irrevocably altered—without its
creator's permission—a 20 year old work of public art.

Recognition of CFAR founding member John Viramontes:

Honoree, Huffington Post blogger Esther J. Cepeda's Chicago
Latino List 2009
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