LaSalle University, a Catholic university with its own museum, situated in an underprivileged area of Philadelphia, rather abruptly announced in January 2018 that it intended to deaccession a number of works to further its mission to expand educational programs. The LaSalle deaccession has been less well publicised than the Berkshire Museum deaccession or the more recent attempted deaccession from the National Gallery of Canada, but as with both of these affairs, the news was met with outrage and criticism, and once again, the Association of Art Museum Directors and the American Alliance of Museums expressed their disapproval of the deaccession. The Pennsylvanian Attorney General also intervened but failed to bring about anything conclusive.
The Trustees of the LaSalle collection stuck to their guns and the sale proceeded as planned. However, the sale proceeds were much more modest than those achieved in the Sotheby’s auction of the Berkshire works, with total sales estimated between $4.8 and $7.3 million. The works on offer were more low-key and in line with the University’s Catholic character, but still, there was a Tintoretto, an ink on paper by Matisse, an Ingres and a Degas. A mouth-watering offer.
But ultimately the sale did not fare so well. Of the sixteen Old Masters, ten sold at or below their estimated price, while the rest went unsold.
So what factors contributed to the poor sale results? Was it the quality of works on offer? Or was it due to the fact that no announcement was made that the auction proceeds would go to charitable causes? That may have helped to a certain extent, but for now, the unsold paintings will go back to the LaSalle University Museum to be examined and studied by the LaSalle population.
The Berkshire Museum sale is scheduled to take place at Sotheby’s, scattered across different auctions in mid-May 2018. Will it outshine the LaSalle sale? Highly likely, and it is certainly one to keep an eye on. The remainder of the LaSalle collection will supposedly be auctioned off throughout June 2018.