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The Met Will Sell Up To $1.4 Million Worth Of Prints And Photos To Recoup Pandemic Losses

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at September 17, 2021


The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the United States’  largest and most prestigious art museum, will auction off more than 200 duplicate photographs and art prints from its vast collection to help make up for revenue losses from its five-month closure in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Key Facts

The Met will sell works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Frank and Frank Stella, along with pieces from its famed Civil War photography collection,  over three auctions with Christie’s starting this month, the auction house told Forbes

Christie’s expects the 219 pieces to bring in between $904,600 and $1.4 million collectively, Christie’s confirmed to Forbes, small change compared to The Met’s $150 million shortfall during the last fiscal year.

The first auction, consisting of 168 of the museum’s Civil War photos, will start online Sept. 24, and will be followed by a live auction at Christie’s of 16 photographs, including seven of Frank’s on Oct. 6, while the remaining prints will be sold in an online sale of graphic design prints that kicks off Nov. 4.

The most expensive piece listed for auction so far is “U.S. 90, En Route to Del Rio, Texas, 1955,” a black-and-white Frank print featuring a woman sitting in a car that Christie’s estimates could sell for as much as $250,000.

The Met did not immediately return a request for comment from Forbes.

ArtNet first reported that the auctions were planned.


When The Met first hinted it would consider deaccessioning parts of its collection in February, the museum’s former director Thomas P. Campbell warned that relying on selling off pieces could harm art museums by characterizing collections as fungible assets, which could disincentive art donations and threaten the tax deductions that encourage museum philanthropy. “Deaccessioning will be like crack cocaine to the addict – a rapid hit, that becomes a dependency,” Campbell said in an Instagram post.


While The Met regularly deaccessions parts of its collections to help fund new acquisitions, the proceeds from the auctions starting this month will go toward salaries for staff who care for collections, a move that has been temporarily permitted by the Association of Art Museum Directors until April 2022 to help museums offset pandemic losses. While institutions like the Brooklyn Museum of Art have taken advantage of the relaxed guidelines to recoup funds related to collection care, selling pieces for anything other than acquiring new works is still taboo and has landed some museums in hot water. Last year, the Baltimore Museum pulled three pieces at the last minute after the AAMD objected to a Sotheby’s private sale that was expected to bring in $65 million for the museum and earmarked to go toward improving diversity at the museum, both in staffing and the collection. “As we have said consistently, our April 2020 resolutions were not intended to address needs beyond current, pandemic-related financial challenges,” AAMD President Brent Benjamin said in a statement to ARTNews, adding that “art collections should not be monetized except in very narrow and limited circumstances.”

Key Background

The Met’s five-month closure in 2020 was the first time the museum had closed for more than three days in over 100 years. It reopened to limited capacity in late August last year. The Met has an endowment fund of $3.6 billion.

Further Reading

The Met Museum Is Deaccessioning $1 Million Worth of Photos and Prints to Fill a Revenue Shortfall Caused by the Pandemic (ArtNet)

The Met—America’s Biggest Museum—Reopens After Five Months (Photos) (Forbes)


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