Nov. 28, 2021

Museum Policy

Years ago I was a part time guard at The Cleveland Museum of Art. At that time was only one other part time guard. All the rest of the guards were full time guards who had been there for years. One day I was in a gallery featuring new additions to the CMA collection and I decided to ask what was probably an assistant curator or maybe a curator a question. At that time the CMA only owned in the field of surrealism a small Miro painting from his constellation series in the late 1930's. It is a good painting but I wanted to know why the museum didn't own any other works by other surrealists such as Dali, Ernst, etc. The official was kind enough to spend some time talking to me that day. The person said the museum would love to have a Dali in their collection ( it would take another 25 or so years before they did get one..but they did get a good one). Then they went on to say that the CMA had some standards concerning purchasing a work. One the work has to be in good condition. Next it should be important in the body of work of that artist. Third, it should be important in the context of art history. Also the CMA would rather have a first rate work by a second rate artist than a second rate work by a first rate artist. The bottom line is the CMA official spent time explaining museum policies to a 19 year old part time guard (who just also happened to be an artist). I never forgot that. In another town much much later I also worked in an art museum as a part time guard for a major Picasso exhibition they were having there. I complimented a high ranking person from that museum on the lighting in the exhibition and they looked at me up and down like I was a bug that crawled out of the Picasso etching The Dream and Lie of Franco. HAHA