Thursday, May 14, 2009
LACMA Selling 17 Old Masters
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is selling 17 European paintings at Sotheby's June 4th sale in New York. The works on the block include big and bigish names — Rubens, De Hooch, ter Borch, Angelica Kauffmann — and a few pictures that might be familiar to regular visitors, such as Jan Steen's likeable The Twelfth Night and Jean-Baptiste Greuze's icky Girl with a Lamb. The Rubens, a Head of a Bearded Man (pictured), has not been on view in living memory (though it was featured in the museum's 1946 blockbuster, "Rubens and Van Dyck"). It, the De Hooch, and the ter Borch (below, The Card Players) are the most valuable works, each estimated at $400,000 to $600,000. The Sotheby's catalog includes the usual disclaimer: "to benefit future acquisitions."
The sale continues the museum's aggressive approach to upgrading its collection. As in a previous purge, the museum is not shy about relinquishing its only work by an important artist. The ter Borch and the De Hooch, though not great, are LACMA's only paintings by the artists (and since it ain't got a Vermeer, the sale won't leave much in the way of Dutch genre scenes). Clearly the superb Edward and Hannah Carter paintings have raised the bar for the Dutch galleries.
The only puzzle: why sell this very instant, into a slumping art market?