Museum at Center of Georgia O’Keeffe Deaccessioning Controversy Is Closing

It's a challenging time for Valparaiso University

Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia O'Keeffe in 1971.
Basil Langton/Photo Researchers History/Getty Images

Beginning in 2020, casual observers of the art world found themselves thinking a lot more about the concept of deaccessioning. That was in part because certain museums were feeling the financial strain of the pandemic (one that’s ongoing for some) and needed to part ways with objects from their collection to stay afloat. There are other reasons for a museum to sell art from its collection, but “paying for renovated dorms” is not generally well regarded.

And yet that was reason Valparaiso University cited last year when they announced that the university’s Brauer Museum of Art would sell several works of art, including O’Keeffe’s painting Rust Red Hills. Would the profits from this go to getting new works for the museum’s collection? No, not at all. Instead, the stated goal was to renovate the university’s freshman dormitories.

The effect that this would have on the museum’s collection remains to be seen, but now it seems like it may go unanswered for much longer. Writing at ARTnews, Karen K. Ho pointed out that the Brauer Museum has closed its doors. A visit to the museum’s website features a terse announcement: “THE BRAUER MUSEUM OF ART IS TEMPORARILY CLOSED. MORE INFORMATION WILL BE SHARED AT A LATER DATE.”

The Met May Sell Some of Its Permanent Collection to Cover Pandemic Losses
Is this the highest-profile example of deaccessioning yet?

As the article in ARTnews pointed out, this closure is part of a larger set of financial issues facing the university. In addition to the museum closing, Valparaiso is also looking into closing dozens of undergraduate and graduate programs, ranging from German to Logistics.

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