The Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College in Virginia has received a rare sanction from a national organization of museum directors for the recent decision to sell a valuable George Bellows painting in order to fund college operations.
Leaders at the Assn. of Art Museum Directors said in a release on Wednesday that the sale of Bellows' 1912 "Men of the Docks" constituted a "violation of one of the most fundamental professional principles of the art museum field."
The sale "not only erodes the credibility and good standing of the Maier Museum, but also affects all art museums and the trust that the public has placed in them," the group said.
The Maier Museum sold the Bellows painting in February to the National Gallery in London for $25.5 million. The National Gallery said at the time that the purchase is part of a "new, transatlantic academic partnership" with Randolph College that will include lectures and student exchanges.
Sanctions imposed by the museum directors group will include instructions to members to suspend loans of artworks to, and any collaboration on exhibitions and programs with, the Maier Museum.
The sanctions represent a more stringent penalty than a censure, the group said. In 2008, the museum directors censured the Maier Museum for its decision to sell Rufino Tamayo’s painting "Trovador."
The AAMD represents 236 art museum directors across North America and is dedicated to maintaining standards of excellence in the museum field.
"Men of the Docks" had been a key component of the Maier Museum's collection, acquired in 1920 with money raised by students.