The Brooklyn Museum Just Made $6.6 Million Selling Art From Its Collection—and It’s Putting More on the Block

The museum hopes to raise $40 million in total.

Lucas Cranach the Elder's Lucretia, which the Brooklyn Museum is selling, is estimate at around $1.8 million.

The Brooklyn Museum generated $6.6 million from the sale of art from its collection at Christie’s yesterday. But that’s not all: today, the institution announced another group of works would be headed to the block at rival Sotheby’s.

The institution’s leaders hope to build out a $40 million endowment that can generate $2 million per year for the maintenance of its collection. The windfall would offer a reprieve to a museum that had been grappling with financial issues long before the prolonged shutdown.

The Brooklyn Museum is one of a number of institutions taking advantage of newly relaxed rules issued by the Association of Art Museum Directors that temporarily permits them to use funds raised from deaccessioning for purposes beyond buying more art. (The relaxation of the rules is in effect through April 2022.)

It’s a development that some have praised as a lifeline. Others, however, describe it a trap door, allowing museums to take the easy way out by turning their collections into cash machines.

Henri Matisse, Carrefour de Malabry (Crossroads at Malabry) (circa 1916). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Henri Matisse, Carrefour de Malabry (Crossroads at Malabry) (circa 1916). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

At Christie’s yesterday, nine of 10 works from Brooklyn found buyers. The $6.6 million total exceeded the group’s combined presale estimate of $2.3 million to $3.4 million.

The top lot offered by the museum—which was also the top lot of the entire Old Master auction—was Lucas Cranach’s Lucretia, which sold for $5.1 million, more than twice its high estimate of $1.8 million. It was bequeathed to the museum in 1921.

More Brooklyn Museum material will be offered in Sotheby’s upcoming livestreamed evening sale on October 28, including works by Claude Monet, Jean Dubuffet, Edgar Degas, Joan Miró, Henri Matisse, and design objects by Carlo Mollino.

Sotheby’s will sell further works consigned by the museum throughout the fall, including at its contemporary and Impressionist and Modern day sales in mid-November and in a dedicated sale of Fabergé objects.

The Brooklyn Museum has said it plans to use the proceeds to build out a Collection Care Fund to “help offset the vastly growing expenses of collection care and stabilize collection care efforts in times of economic downturn.” The funds will be used to pay for storage, conservation, as well as a portion of salaries for staff members who work directly with the collection, according to a spokesperson.

Joan Miro, <i>Couple d'Amoureux dans la Nuit </i>. Image courtesy Sotheby's

Joan Miro, Couple d’Amoureux dans la Nuit . Image courtesy Sotheby’s

“While seeing any artwork leave our collection can be painful, in no way does the departure of any of these works undermine the core strengths of our collection,” the museum’s director Anne Pasternak said in a statement. She added that all decisions “were made with the utmost care and research, guided by industry practice and laws.”

Works offered at Christie’s yesterday were drawn from the museum’s European art and Old Master collections, including A portrait of a gentleman by Lorenzo Costa, which realized $137,500 against an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. Donato de’ Bardi’s painting of Saint Jerome sold for $118,750, while Gustav Courbet’s Bords de la Loue avec rochers à gauche (1868) sold for $798,000.

One work—Charles-François Daubigny’s Un verger—failed to sell. It carried an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000. Two more paintings will be offered in online sales at Christie’s through October 20.

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