Met Sells Millions from Collection
New York -- It’s a fire sale at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum sold off 3,290 objects worth a total of $5.4 million last year, generating the highest revenue in eight years.
Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network are eager to acquire some of these museum-owned artworks
The selling spree continues with at least $3 million worth of paintings auctioned off this year alone.
Gone in the house cleaning are Old Masters and Renaissance works donated by benefactors including former Met president George Blumenthal.
Blumenthal’s collection went to the museum after his 1941 death and two of the pieces were put on the auction block in January. A 16th-century painting called “The Master of the Plump-Cheeked Madonnas” sold for $941,000.
A 15th-century Madonna and child sold for $269,000. The museum had a $4.4 million operating deficit in the 2013 fiscal year, a loss it blamed on Hurricane Sandy and other factors, according to its latest annual report.
But the Met said the proceeds from the art sales did not go toward shoring up museum finances.
“The museum is perpetually engaged in assessing its own collections, refining them, and making room for new acquisitions that merit display,” said spokesman Harold Holzer.
"The Met owns more than 1.5 million works of art in all, and even in this vast building, storage space is finite.” Everything sold had been in storage for years, he said.
The state Board of Regents prohibits museums from selling works in order to fund operating costs.
The Met came under fire in 1972 when it secretly sold paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Henri Rousseau to help buy a $5.4 million Velazquez painting.
The sell-off sparked an investigation by the state attorney general and an agreement about public disclosure of future sales, which are now done at auction.
Of the 3,290 objects sold in 2013, about 2,800 were clothing and accessories from the Met’s Costume Institute, Holzer said. The Brooklyn Museum combined its costume collection with that of the Met in 2008 and it is being pared down.
Unless the gift was made in the last 25 years, descendants of donors are kept in the dark.
Frederick Warburg Peters, the great-grandson of banker Felix Warburg, had no clue that a Renaissance painting called “The Madonna and Child with a Goldfinch” was sold this year for $749,000.
It was donated in his great-grandfather’s memory by his great-grandmother in 1941.
But Peters, who runs Warburg Realty — which is featured on a reality show named “Selling New York” — said the art sale was out of his family’s hands.
“I would rather think of this being in a private collection or another museum where people can enjoy it, than in the basement of the Met where no one is going to see it,” Peters said.