Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Innuendo and open ended questions about the Arthotheque's Auction


This month's journalist-out-of-favor is Stephane Baillargeon who today writes about the Artothèque's silent auction of 45 works that they have in their collection.

The first three sentences of his article are all questions:
Mais d'où viennent les quelque 5000 oeuvres accumulées avec 5,5 millions davantages fiscaux? Une institution muséale peut-elle recevoir une oeuvre en échange d'avantages fiscaux, l'intégrer à sa collection permanente, puis la revendre pour financer ses activités? Et d'ailleurs, comment un petit organisme sans but lucratif fonctionnant avec un budget annuel d'environ 300 000 $ peut-il se permettre d'accumuler en un peu plus d'une décennie une collection presque aussi volumineuse que celle du Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal?
Or if you prefer in English:
  1. But where did the 5,000 pieces worth $5.5 million dollars come from?
  2. If a museum gives a tax receipt for a piece of art, can they sell it?
  3. How can a non-profit organization with an operating budget of $300,000 get an art collection as large as that of the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal?
It is only at the very end of the article that the director of the Artotheque is quoted as saying "Revenue Canada has verified everything." Nothing like leading your reader to believe one thing for the majority of the article and then only slipping the answer in at the end, where they are most likely to miss and/or ignore it.

And while I'm at it, I would also question where he got his figures about the 34 most important museums in Quebec receiving 2,848 donations worth $13.7 million dollars in 04/05. Because a) I'd love to know how they decided which museums were important and which ones were not important? b) If the Musee des beaux arts last year received 500 works of art worth $8 million dollars, and the year before that (04/05) $7.3 million from about 500 pieces as well. (Annual Reports: 04/05 & 05/06) Which would leave 33 'important Quebecois museums' receiving 2,348 donations worth about $6.4 million, or about $370 per donation.

As Eric Devlin states it is «louche» but not as M. Baillargeon attributes; because the Artotheque is trying to turn a profit, but because the Artotheque has been put into this situation by forces larger than the Artotheque, and it is only trying to survive. Note to M. Devlin, comparing the Arthotheque to a library was dead bang-on balls accurate, last I heard the city is refusing to fund one library, and as a consequence it is closing. My guess is that this is what the Artotheque is trying to avoid having happen to it. Which would is worse? The Artotheque closing like the Fraser-Hickson Library, due to a lack of cash? Or them being able to continue loaning and renting 4,955 pieces of art to the community for the forseable future by selling 45 pieces?

Oh, and while we're at it M. Baillargeon, it you haven't noticed there's been a dramatic increase in the Art Market recently.

[Update: Catalogs available here: English version, and la version française, both pdf files, 1.2MB]

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