While we will discuss some important cases in Art Law, I think it is important for any readers to get an overview of the latest controversies. This is only a bare minimum of what is out there, but it gives you an idea of the range of controversy — principles of all sorts are at stake. For instance, what does Elton John’s controversy tell us about what the public is willing to accept? Or, more disturbingly, what are we willing to accept about ourselves?

Now that you are briefed somewhat, consider this case:

Yesterday, the board of Randolph College voted to sell the prized Bellows canvas and three other paintings from its art collection this fall at Christie’s in New York. The auction house estimates that the Bellows alone, which goes on the block on Nov. 29, could bring in $25 million to $35 million — at least 10,000 times what the students paid in 1920.

The college’s goal is to raise at least $32 million over all to shore up its endowment and reduce a steep operating deficit.

If you thought something like this would happen without a fight, you’d be wrong. This scenario has recently played out at several colleges. Plenty of people are upset. Why?

In 1920, students at what was then Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Va., raised $2,500 to buy George Bellows’s “Men of the Docks,” a stark 1912 painting of men waiting by the water’s edge. It was the first purchase for what later became the college’s Maier Museum of Art. …

The article suggests that the college’s finances may be way out of order, and that on the list of the administration’s priorities, maintaining its impressive art assets does not rank high among them. While it may be smarter to prune the administration, fire people, and get back to whatever it is the college does best, perhaps it is too late. The administration did not value its assets properly and will now pay the price.

Maybe they didn’t deserve them anyway.

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