Should MOCA sell art to pay bills? Probably not.
As the drama unfolds over whether and how L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art will solve its financial crisis, fans of MOCA and museums in general are hoping it won't choose what some would consider a doomsday option: selling art from the collection to pay off general expenses or satisfy debts.
Two leading service organizations, the American Assn. of Museums and the Assn. of Art Museum Directors, say flatly that it's unethical to sell objects from a collection -- "deaccession" is the technical term -- except to raise funds to buy more pieces. The AAMD already has come down on New York's National Academy Museum for breaking the no-sell rule -- possibly as a way of warning MOCA and other museums with financial problems to resist the temptation of converting art to cash. The reason it's considered unethical is that museums' fundamental role is to keep beautiful, fascinating and meaningful works of nature and humankind in their community and in the public domain.