Art Owned by La Salle University Headed for Auction at Christie’s

“The Tomb of Virgil at Posilipo, near Naples,” by Hubert Robert is one of the 46 works to be sold by La Salle University.

La Salle University, a private college in Philadelphia, is planning to auction dozens of works from its museum to raise millions of dollars for the university.

The school’s plan, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, is to sell 46 works by artists like by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Georges Rouault, Thomas Eakins and Henri Matisse. The art is expected to raise as much as $7 million, or more, which would be used to “to help fund teaching and learning initiatives in its new strategic plan,” according to the Inquirer.

A respected institution, the La Salle University Art Museum opened in 1976 and owns a permanent display of paintings, drawings and sculptures from the Renaissance to the present.

The process of selling art, known as deaccessioning, is a fraught one for museums; major professional organizations like the American Alliance of Museums condemn the sale of art to pay for expansions, physical repairs or ongoing expenses, as opposed to using the proceeds for the acquisition of other works or, perhaps, the care of a collection.

At times, government agencies that oversee nonprofit institutions have intervened to halt sales.

In 2009, for instance, the attorney general’s office in Massachusetts conducted a detailed review of Brandeis University’s unexpected announcement that it would shore up its struggling finances by selling all of the works––including those by Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein––held by its Rose Art Museum, one of the most important collections of postwar art in New England.

Later four of the museum’s benefactors sued to stop any art sales.

That lawsuit and the attorney general’s investigation were both resolved in 2011, with Brandeis announcing that it had “no aim, plan, design, strategy or intention to sell any artwork donated to or purchased by” the school for the museum and that the Rose museum will remain a “university art museum open to the public.”

The La Salle sale is being handled by Christie’s, the auction house, and is expected to take place later this year.

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