Delaware Art Museum Climbs Out of $20 Million Hole

By dipping into investment fund.

The Delaware Art Museum.
Photo: The Delaware Art Museum.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel for the troubled Delaware Art Museum, which, the News Journal reports, has just announced that it will eliminate its remaining $19.8 million in debt by the end of September.

The museum came under fire earlier this year when it announced that it would be selling four works from its collection to avoid closing for good. Only two pieces actually made their way to market: William Holman Hunt‘s pre-Raphaelite masterpiece Isabella and the Pot of Basil (1868), which fetched a disappointing $4.25 million, and Black Crescent, an Alexander Calder mobile, which brought in $10.6 million in a private sale.

Winslow Homer‘s Milking Time (1875) was also selected for the fire sale, but has failed to attract a buyer. “Basically, there’s no interest in Homers,” Gerret Copeland, chairman of the museum board, told the News Journal. The museum will bridge the gap to $19.8 million by taking at least $5 million from its investment fund.

A $32.5 million expansion announced way back in 2001 that became mired in delays, wracking up additional costs, lies at the root of the museum’s troubles. Copeland says that the museum is happy to be “free of the albatross around our neck,” even if a less-than-enthusiastic art market made dipping into museum reserve funds necessary.

Repaying the debt will leave some $15 million–18 million in the museum’s investment coffers, or about half of what is needed for the institution’s long-term stability (the fund fluctuates somewhat with the market). The museum was forced to withdrawn from the fund to meet an October 2 bank deadline, or face closure.

“I view it as a loan from the endowment that we will repay as soon as possible,” CEO Mike Miller told the News Journal. Unfortunately, repaying said loan will most likely involve deaccessioning the Homer after all. It is a “strong possibility,” Miller added, that an as-of-yet unnamed fourth piece from the museum’s 12,500-object collection will also be sold.

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