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CAA endorses the Association of Art Museum Directors sanction against the Delaware Art Museum for selling an object from their permanent collection to address financial challenges. The work in question is William Holman Hunt’s  Isabella and the Pot of Basil (1868) sold at Christie’s this week for a final hammer price of $4.25 million, half the amount estimated.

The sanction will result in the Delaware Art Museum not receiving loans of works of art from the AAMD member museums: This sale is unethical and a breach of fiduciary responsibility according to the collection policies of Association of American Museums, AAMD and CAA. Museum collections are held in the public trust, and proceeds of sales of works from permanent collections are to be used for future growth of collections.

Image: William Holman Hunt, Isabella and the Pot of Basil, 1868, oil on canvas, 74 x 46 in. (artwork in the public domain)

An Open Letter to:

Mr. Kevyn Orr, Emergency Manager
City of Detroit
2 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48226

Dear Mr. Orr:

On behalf of the College Art Association that represents over 14,000 art historians, artists, curators, art educators and art conservators we express our shock and concern upon reading The Detroit Free Press article today, “DIA’s Collection Could Face Sell-Off to Satisfy Detroit’s Creditors.”

The Detroit Institute of Arts is one of the greatest art museums in the country that represents the finest creative achievements throughout the history of the world. The DIA is not only a great treasure but one of the very few places in Detroit where all people can enjoy, contemplate and study art and its many related concepts. The DIA has developed itself as a public educational institution and has been a leader in the profession at engaging with all segments of the community.

The CAA adheres to the principle that public art museums are held in the public trust and as such are to be protected for the public good. It also supports the Alliance of Museums Code of Ethics and the Association of Art Museum Directors’ Policy on Deaccessioning that states that the sale of art museum collections to support operating expenses is unethical.

We appeal to your higher judgment in assessing the true value of the DIA and its critical role for the public good of the city, state and the country in deliberating on the future of this great collection.

Sincerely yours,

Anne Collins Goodyear

Linda Downs
Executive Director

August Update

On August 26, 2013, the Executive Committee of the CAA Board of Directors has agreed to promote this petition, initiated by Jeffrey Hamburger of Harvard University, regarding the potential sale of the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

A temporary facility to provide volunteer assistance and work space to museums, libraries, archives, historic sites, galleries, collectors, and artists will open in Brooklyn, New York, during the week of December 10, 2012.

The Center for Cultural Recovery will be operated by the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (FAIC), in cooperation with a consortium of the following organizations: the Alliance for Response New York City; the American Museum of Natural History; Heritage Preservation; Materials for the Arts; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; the New York Regional Association for Conservation; Industry City at Bush Terminal; and the Smithsonian Institution.

Funding for the center has been provided by a leadership gift to FAIC from Sotheby’s. The Smithsonian Institution and a grant to Heritage Preservation from the New York Community Trust, as well as support from TALAS, have enabled the purchase of supplies. The center has also been outfitted with supplies donated by Materials for the Arts, a program of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Additional donations to FAIC have come from PINTA, the Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art Show; Tru Vue; members of the American Institute for Conservation; and others.

FAIC and its partners have been offering crucial disaster response assistance to cultural organizations and artists in need in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. In the first ten days after the storm struck, FAIC’s Collection Emergency Response Team’s (AIC-CERT) twenty-four-hour hotline (202-661-8068) fielded over fifty-five calls from collectors, artists, and museums. AIC-CERT and New York area volunteers are working with approximately 120 small collections, galleries, and artists in New York and New Jersey to recover collections. In addition, AIC member conservators in private practices throughout the New York region are helping owners preserve their collections.

Access to some collections, including those of individual artists, is only now becoming possible. Even artwork that has been dried still may need rinsing and cleaning to remove residues and mold spores. The Cultural Recovery Center will offer space and expertise to help owners stabilize their collections.

Read more about AIC-CERT’s volunteer services. The Museum of Modern Art in New York has also published Hurricane Sandy Conservation Resources for owners of cultural materials.

Recent CAA Advocacy

posted by June 18, 2012

CAA’s advocacy efforts this year addressed a wide range of issues of critical importance to the visual arts, from the necessity of artists to have affordable health-insurance options, to the ethical treatment of animals in works of art, to the ins and outs of copyright law and museum practices. Below is a summary of eleven issues to which CAA has been committed during the past twelve months.

In June 2011, CAA filed an amicus brief in the case of Golan v. Holder, which the United States Supreme Court began hearing in October. The issue raised in Golan v. Holder is whether Congress, after enacting the Uruguay Round Agreements Act of 1994, could legally remove tens of thousands—if not millions—of foreign works from the public domain and bring them back into copyright. Consistent with the First Amendment, the brief argued that those works should remain freely available. On January 18, 2012, the Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s previous decision, 6–2. In short, foreign works formerly in the public domain in the US can have their copyrighted status reinstated.

In December 2011, CAA signed onto a statement from the Association of Art Museum Directors that opposed the pending sale of a fifty percent stake in the Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Modern American and European Art at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Since 2005 the school had been attempting to sell the collection, donated by Georgia O’Keeffe (who specified that it never be sold or broken up). “Such an action,” stated the letter, “would violate a core professional standard of AAMD and of the museum field, which prohibit[s] the use of funds from the sale of works of art for purposes other than building an institution’s collection.” Nevertheless, the Tennessee Supreme court did not block the sale to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, on April 25, 2012. The university and museum will share the collection on a three-year rotating basis, with the museum helping to conserve the collection.

CAA board and staff members represented the organization at two events this spring in Washington, DC: Anne Collins Goodyear, then-incoming board president, and Linda Downs, CAA executive director and chief executive officer, attended Humanities Advocacy Day in March; and Judith Thorpe, an outgoing board member, and Helen Bayer, CAA marketing and communications associate, went to Arts Advocacy Day in April. The goal of both days was to support continued federal funding through the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, and to articulate to Congress the vital importance of the humanities and the arts in higher education. The National Humanities Alliance’s annual meeting coincided with Humanities Advocacy Day. Goodyear and Downs have offered a summary of this important event.

At the request of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), CAA investigated the use of homing pigeons in Jon Rubin’s interactive artwork, Thinking about Flying (2012), on view this year at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado. The piece invites museum visitors to take home a bird, placed in a cardboard box, for a day before releasing it, so that it may fly back to the museum. CAA confirmed the humanitarian treatment of the birds by the artist and museum and notified PETA of the findings.

In April, CAA investigated the complaint raised by several artists who lent work to the 2010 World Festival of Black Artists and Cultures in Senegal that was not returned due to a dispute with an art shipper in Dakar. CAA determined that the situation did not need the organization’s assistance.

Michael Fahlund, CAA deputy director, testified on behalf of the organization at an oversight hearing convened by New York City’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations on January 25, 2012, regarding increasing access to affordable health insurance for artists. Even though CAA is an international organization, its office is in the state of New York; presently the healthcare industry is regulated state by state. Fahlund proposed that CAA be given “employer status” in relation to its members living in New York State in order to provide health-insurance options for them. The committee’s discussions are ongoing.

CAA monitored a federal bill, the Research Works Act (H.R. 3699), that was introduced in the US House of Representatives on December 16, 2011, by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and cosponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)— chairman and member, respectively, of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The legislation would prohibit federal agencies from mandating free access to scholarly articles submitted to a scientific or scholarly publication without the consent of the publisher. This act primarily addresses science and technology publications but, if enacted, could affect art and humanities publications as well. Many learned societies who are publishers oppose the legislation, and CAA board members have begun discussing the issue and are paying close attention to the legislation’s development.

Representing CAA, Fahlund contributed his expertise to a National Coalition Against Censorship committee that developed Museum Best Practices for Managing Controversy, published in May. The document offers guidance for institutions to turn controversial situations into learning experiences for their public. The committee comprised representatives from the American Association of Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Association of Art Museum Curators, Columbia University, Arizona State University, the University of Washington, and the New School. CAA’s Museum Committee is reviewing the guideline and will present it for adoption at the CAA board meeting on October 28, 2012.

Fahlund also worked with a liability insurance broker, Herbert L. Jamison and Co. LLC, and Philadelphia Insurance Companies, and with two CAA members, Barbara Buhler Lynes and Nancy Mowll Mathews, to establish comprehensive, affordable liability insurance for art historians and artists who authenticate works of art. Such insurance would help defend against a damaging financial loss that could occur from alleged mistakes or negligence. CAA does not administer the insurance but acts as a referral to the insurance company; in a brief article from this past January, Fahlund offers helpful loss-prevention tips for the art professional to avoid potential workplace liabilities.

Last month CAA signed onto a letter from the Association of Art Museum Directors sent to Congress, urging legislators to pass the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (S. 2212), a proposed law that would shield a loaned work of art from a non-US collection from being seized by anyone with a claim to legal ownership while the art is on display in the country. According to the letter, the US has “long provided the crucial legal protection that helps make loans from foreign museums possible” through the Department of State, until a 2004–8 lawsuit involving heirs of Kasimir Malevich and the City of Amsterdam weakened those protections. The House passed the bill (H.R. 4086), which the Senate is now debating.

As a member of the Coalition on the Academic Workforce, a group that addresses workforce issues in higher education, CAA helped to prepare and administer a 2010 survey on contingent-faculty issues. The results have been tabulated and will be distributed soon. More than one thousand CAA members filled out the survey. [June 20 update: the survey results have been published.]

Founded as an advocate for the visual arts in higher education, CAA actively engages matters of public policy, litigation, and activism at the local, state, federal, and international levels. For further information, visit the Advocacy section of the website. If you have questions or have advocacy issues you would like to bring to the attention of the CAA board, please contact Anne Collins Goodyear, CAA president, and Linda Downs, CAA executive director and chief executive officer, at

The newly created Modern Art Iraq Archive (MAIA) is part of a long-term effort to document and preserve the modern artistic works from the Iraqi Museum of Modern Art in Baghdad, most of which were lost and damaged in the fires and looting during the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq by the United States in 2003. As the site shows, little is known about many works, including their current whereabouts and their original location in the museum. The lack of documents about modern Iraqi art prompted the growth of the project to include supporting text. The site makes the works of art available as an open-access database in order to raise public awareness of the many lost works and to encourage interested individuals help document the museum’s original and/or lost holdings.

The MAIA site is the culmination of seven years of work by its project director, Nada Shabout, professor of art history and director of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute at the University of North Texas in Denton. Since 2003, Shabout has been collecting information on the lost works through intensive research, interviews with artists, museum personnel, and art-gallery owners. Shabout received two fellowships from the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq, in 2006 and 2007, to conduct the first phase of data collection. In 2009, she teamed with colleagues at the Alexandria Archive Institute, a California-based nonprofit organization dedicated to opening global cultural heritage for research, education, and creative works. The team won a Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to create a comprehensive archive of works once housed in museum’s galleries. These significant national treasures are displayed in an format that invites worldwide use, including the Iraqi national and expatriate communities. Users are encouraged to help identify and further document individual pieces.

MAIA aims to map the development of modern art in Iraq during the twentieth century and be a research tool to scholars, students, authorities, and the general public. It also strives to raise awareness of the rich modern heritage of Iraq. Furthermore, the creation of an authoritative, public inventory of the collection will not only act as a reminder of its cultural value and thus hopefully hasten its return, but it will also help combat smuggling and black-market dealings of the works.

The Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) has developed the Protecting Haitian Patrimony (PHP) Initiative to bring together international contributors to assist Haiti with the preservation of Haitian cultural patrimony while respecting local sovereignty. From February 11 to 17, 2010, Brooke Wooldridge, dLOC project coordinator, traveled to Haiti to meet with local leadership and determine the short, medium, and long-term goals for the initiative.

The downloadable PDF report summarizes the current actions taken in regard to the specific patrimonial collections in Haiti. It also provides the background necessary to develop coherent, complementary plans to assist local institutions as they protect the collections and develop resources to preserve and ensure that the future generations will have access to these resources.

The Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC), an international collaboration of educational, research, governmental, and nongovernmental institutions that provides access to electronic collections about the Caribbean, is seeking donations and technical assistance for the recovery and protection of Haiti’s libraries and their valuable historical, governmental, and cultural resources.

The Digital Library of the Caribbean has initiated the Protecting Haitian Patrimony Initiative, the goal of which is to help the country’s three largest heritage libraries and the National Archives, all of which were damaged in the January 12 earthquake. While the main structures remain standing, one library must be evacuated and most likely demolished and the others suffered significant damage, leaving their collections extremely vulnerable. As a result, significant resources will be needed to protect the already brittle, rare books and documents, now left in piles and covered with debris.

The damaged institutions have indicated they need gloves, masks, archival boxes, and temporary staff to assist in the clean-up. Later, they will need to replace broken shelving, repair or replace damaged electronic equipment, and provide more advanced restoration for many of the rarest books and documents.

Laura Probst, dean of FIU Libraries and a dLOC executive committee member, said protecting the historical documents is crucial in the earthquake’s aftermath.

“The collections in these archives represent the collective memory of the Haitian people, their culture, and Haiti’s role in the history of the western hemisphere and the world,” Probst said. “With this initiative we seek to preserve these invaluable resources for Haiti’s future, and for our own.”

FIU has a longstanding partnership with Haiti’s libraries and the National Archives through the Digital Library of the Caribbean and is one of the founding partners and administrators of dLOC, along with the University of Florida and the University of the Virgin Islands.

The Digital Library of the Caribbean’s operations are run out of the Latin American and Caribbean Center at FIU. Brooke Wooldridge, coordinator of dLOC at FIU, will be traveling to Haiti this week to assist the libraries and archives in documenting their needs and planning for the next phases of their recovery.

The Protecting Haitian Patrimony Initiative at first will channel resources to four institutions in Port-au-Prince:

  • Archives Nationales d’Haïti houses both civil and state records, including births, marriage and death certificates, documentation of social works, civil governance and records of the Office of the President, and most government ministries
  • Bibliothèque haïtienne des Pères du Saint-Esprit was founded in 1873 by the Fathers of the Holy Spirit. The library holds resources documenting the history of Haiti, French colonization, slavery, and emancipation, and 20th Century records, as well as newspapers and periodicals
  • Bibliothèque haïtienne des Frères de l’Instruction Chrétienne was founded in 1912 by the Christian Brothers. It served as depository-library for Haitian imprints and holds titles not even available in the National Library. It also holds one of the most significant collections of Haitian newspapers
  • Bibliothèque National d’Haïti was established in 1940 and also serves as a public library providing resources, study space, and research support. It has a small but significant collection of rare books, manuscripts, and newspapers

For more information or to contribute to the Protecting Haitian Patrimony Initiative, please visit the dLOC website or call dLOC at 305-348-3008.

The text was published earlier today on the website of Florida International University (FIU) and is reprinted here with permission by

Rescue Public Murals invites artists and arts organizations to contribute photographs of American outdoor murals, to be deposited in a special collection in the ARTstor Digital Library and made available for educational use.

The images in the Rescue Public Murals (Heritage Preservation) collection will serve as a valuable record of murals in the United States and place them in the context of other works in the arts, architecture, and humanities. Your photographs can join the more than five thousand catalogued mural photographs already contributed by Rescue Public Murals cochair, Timothy Drescher.

Images may be submitted online and should be high-resolution TIFF or JPEG files at 3,000 pixels on one side. Assistance is also available to scan slides. The online submission site includes fields to complete with identifying information about the mural, including artist name, title, date, location, medium, dimensions, photographer, and copyright information. Rescue Public Murals staff will facilitate their inclusion in ARTstor by providing cataloging and technical assistance.

Submissions are accepted until March 31, 2010. Artists and arts organizations that are considering submissions can email Kristen Laise or call 202-233-0824 for more information.

In 2006, Heritage Preservation launched Rescue Public Murals, an initiative to bring public attention to US murals, document their unique artistic and historic contributions, and secure the expertise and support to save them. While much of the effort is focused on the physical preservation of community murals, it is inevitable that some important murals will not survive. As another means of preserving this distinctive American art form, Rescue Public Murals also collects photographs and archival documentation related to murals.

Funding for this project comes from the Getty Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts. Rescue Public Murals has also received support from the Booth Heritage Foundation, Friends of Heritage Preservation, and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art.

The following letter comes from Brooke Wooldridge of the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC). A cooperative digital library for resources from and about the Caribbean and circum-Caribbean, dLOC provides access to digitized versions of Caribbean cultural, historical, and research materials currently held in archives, libraries, and private collections.

There has been significant confusion as to the state of the four main patrimonial libraries in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake on January 12, 2010. Based on information that I have received from the Digital Library of the Caribbean partner libraries in Haiti, all four of the following library buildings are standing:

  • Archives nationales d’Haïti
  • Bibliothèque haïtienne des Pères du Saint-Esprit / San Martial [though the collection will need to be evacuated, as the building cannot be salvaged]
  • Bibliothèque haïtienne des Frères de l’Instruction Chrétienne / Saint Louis de Gonzague
  • Bibliothèque nationale d’Haïti

Importantly, the library at Saint Louis de Gonzague (FIC) was NOT destroyed. The reporter that stated the library had fallen was incorrect.

According to the director of the National Library, Mme. Francoise Thybulle, the structures must be inspected before the local staff can assess the situation and prepare detailed plans that will certainly ask for international assistance. While the buildings are standing, this does not diminish what will be the very real need for assistance once the local leadership is able to assess the situation. All of the library directors have asked that interested parties work together to help preserve the collections [and] bring these libraries/archives back into service.

Many institutions and individuals have expressed an interest in supporting the Haitian libraries/archives as they begin to rebuild. The outpouring of support and interest for the preservation of Haitian patrimony is unprecedented. Many of you are already in contact with colleagues regarding ways to help. I am trying to serve as a clearinghouse for the Haitian libraries of the different people, institutions or groups that would like to offer support to the libraries. Once I have feedback from the partner libraries in Haiti, I will share a working document of the projects I am aware of and an online survey for interested individuals to complete via Feel free to contact me personally at or preferably via the dLOC Facebook Group if you are already planning a project locally.

The Digital Library of the Caribbean has been working with partners in Haiti since it began in 2004. The National Archives in Haiti was a founding member of dLOC, and in the last few years we have developed strong relationships with both the National Library and the Fathers of the Holy Spirit (San Martial) Library. As more information becomes available from the local leadership, I will share it as widely as possible. I have been hesitant to send a large response until now because of the many conflicting reports. This information is confirmed, and comes from the directors of each library/archive.

As the many researchers that have worked in these four libraries know, their directors are completely dedicated to the preservation of their national patrimonial collections. All four have been fighting to preserve these collections for decades, and I am confident with support from the international community these collections will be preserved and accessible for many years to come.

While most news updates in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12 are rightly focused on rescue efforts, information about losses of the country’s artistic, architectural, and cultural life have begun surfacing.

A report from the Rutland Herald, published a few days after the quake, told us about the death of Flo McGarrell, a thirty-five-year-old artist who had been the director of FOSAJ, a nonprofit art center in Jacmel, a French colonial town in southern Haiti.

The Biblical murals at the Cathedrale of Sainte Trinite (also known as the Episcopal Holy Trinity Cathedral) by some of Haiti’s best-known artists “are now largely dust,” according to Lesley Clark of the Miami Herald. The Centre d’Art, founded in the 1940s by a group of Haitian artists and writers in collaboration with an American educator, is badly damaged as well, and the Culture Creation Foundation has lost its offices and eighteen years of work.

Clark details other significant losses, including the private collections of Carmel Delatour, who herself perished in the quake, and Georges Nader. Nader and his wife survived, but hundreds of paintings by Philomé Obin and Hector Hyppolite, among many other artists, did not. About 100 of his 15,000 works were salvaged from the Musée d’Art Nader, which was part of the collector’s home. (Other sources number 50 surviving works from a 12,000 piece collection.) There is some good news: his son’s Nader Gallery in nearby Pétionville was barely touched.

Clark also reports that a Quebec-based Haitian critic and curator, Gerald Alexis, is working to mobilize arts groups to help preserve surviving works, and the Waterloo Center for the Arts in Iowa, which has a large collection of Haitian art, has established a relief fund. In addition, the Haitian government has deputized Daniel Elie, a former minister of culture, to conduct a nationwide inventory.

For the Wall Street Journal, Pooja Bhatia describes the loss of the Sacre Coeur church, including its stained-glass windows, as well as the National Cathedral in Port-au-Prince. She also provides a biography of Nader and an account of the Haitian art scene before and after the disaster. Bhatia notes that none of his works was insured.

Marc Lacey of the New York Times mentions the destruction of the Supreme Court building and the National Palace, a French Renaissance–style building that was home the Haiti’s president. Although no permanent collection of art and artifacts were housed there, the status of works in the ceremonial rooms is unknown. Some believe the collections in the nearby National Museum, which was built underground, survived, and the contents of the National Archives appear to have fared well.

Because of continuously unstable government situations, Lacy writes, “private groups and individuals had become some of the most important protectors of the country’s treasures. Many of the country’s most valuable historical texts, for instance, were owned by individuals, and preserved at their homes—rather than under glass or in wood-walled libraries as they might have been in Washington or other moneyed capitals.” The reporter encountered a sculptor, Patrick Vilaire, who was strategizing on how to protect art and books in private collection from looting. Vilaire said, “The dead are dead, we know that. But if you don’t have the memory of the past, the rest of us can’t continue living.”

UNESCO reports that the National History Park, an early-nineteenth-century complex in northern Haiti made up of the Palace of Sans Souci, buildings at Ramiers, and the Citadel, was probably spared. However, the colonial town of Jacmel in the south has witnessed the collapse of many buildings.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) has assembled a Haiti Steering Committee to help formulate and guide the assistance and rescue effort of cultural heritage in the country, to begin after humanitarian rescue operations conclude. Gustavo A. Araoz, ICOMOS president, writes:

ICOMOS has assessed the situation and considers it impractical, perhaps even insensitive, to send team that will further tax the scarce local ability to provide food, shelter, medical attention and other basic services, especially while our Haitian colleagues and all the Haitian nation are still struggling for sheer survival while dealing with personal tragedies, loss of family and the wholesale destruction of their homes…. At this time, our efforts are focused on planning and preparing the mobilization process and all its logistics, on the field work methodology, and on the composition and training of the international and multidisciplinary volunteer teams in order that they be ready to be deployed as soon as the go-ahead to do so is given. It is important that this work be centralized in ICOMOS to ensure uniformity in the field evaluations and avoid redundancy.

Katherine Slick, executive director of US/ICOMOS, has announced that her organization has set up a fund to receive tax-deductible donations to support these efforts. Checks may be made out to US/ICOMOS-Haiti Recovery and mailed to: US/ICOMOS, Ste. 331, 401 F St. NW, Washington, DC 20001. An easy method to make your donation online will be set up soon on the US/ICOMOS website.