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Why do U.S. museums not face the same scrutiny when ethical shenanigans cheating the public is reported by the mainstream media?
August 6, 2010 Dear ally of artists' rights: Corrupt art dealer Lawrence Salander was sentenced to prison in New York the other day for cheating the heirs of some famous artists. East coast arts writer Lindsay Pollock's Art Market Views and New York arts lawyer Sergio Munoz Sarmiento's Clancco reported on it. And what about U.S. art museums--including its fiduciary section, the board of directors and museum trustees--when they engage in questionable practices and further tarnish the art world by abusing their tax-exempt nonprofit status? For example, the current King Tut exhibition is winding down its tour in the U.S. Art museums hosting the show have been roundly criticized because they're surrendering curatorial decision-making to partner profit-making entities. More to the point, in 2009 the Dallas Museum of Art refused to turn over financial records related to the King Tut show at the request of the Dallas Morning News when the museum was reported to have lost money on the show due to poor attendance. Where is the DMA's museum transparency? It certainly begs the question: Is the DMA primarily serving its King Tut profit-making partners or the taxpaying public? Why hasn't the Texas Attorney General brought the DMA before a court of law for such behavior? Is the DMA too big (rich) to fall? This is not the first incident involving the DMA. In May of this year Art Market Views reported on the $31M Rothko painting "secret sale" which was supposed to have been a irrevocably promised gift to the DMA. Instead, then-DMA museum trustee, Ms. M. Hoffman pulled it, sold it and profited handsomely! What about the irrevocably promised gift to the DMA by Howard and Cindy Rachofsky of Jeff Koons' monumental sculpture Balloon Flower(Magenta)? That piece was taken out to the museum's future when the Rachofskys pulled it from the DMA and sold it for $25.8M. Where's the museum transparency that accounts for the disbursement of the proceeds? How much profit did the Rachofskys reap on that deal? They originally purchased it 7 years earlier at approximately $1.2M. This is a recent sampling of the DMA's machinations, but from what I understand, a respectable Texas art historian and others know of decades old DMA scandals. Traditional journalists are land-locked in their city and probably reluctant to report on these goings-on in depth and may even fear of losing their jobs if they attempt to do it. However, out-of-state bloggers and others can't be retaliated against for asking the hard questions.
According to some attorneys who have been consulted regarding the sale of two of the DMA's "irrevocable" gifts, they are wondering if the museum's fiduciary arm should be held accountable for the millions of dollars in lost proceeds of those sales. That cash should have remained in the DMA's coffers and not in private citizens' bank accounts. The voice of the taxpaying public weighing in about these matters has gone national. One respectable source said, "Were those two pieces of art the only works sold from the DMA"s ‘Fast Forward’ exhibition?" Since the sale of the Rothko painting was kept so very top secret, one really has to wonder if the board of directors even has a clue. There is probably more than a little tension among the board members at this time. Would Mr. Texas Attorney General be interested in this issue? If not, his opponent in the next election cycle most likely would be. And if neither candidate wants to ask the important questions, it will certainly be a field day for local and national reporters with the resultant black mark left on aspiring political careers. The Council for Artists Rights is based in Chicago, IL USA. 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 Make a Tax-Deductible Donation The Council for Artists Rights is fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas, a 501 (c)(3) public nonprofit. Making a small donation is easy and can be done safely online. All contributions are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.