• 29 Mar 2018

The Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro has been facing financial difficulties for quite some time. In order to survive on the long-term, the Brazilian institution made an unprecedented decision. It will sell the only Artwork by American Artist Jackson Pollock they have. What can we make out of it?

The Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro

The Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro © Dornicke

Financial difficulties

The budget deficit of the Museum of Modern Art in Rio is dizzying. Indeed, it reached close to 450 000 dollars. As a private institution, the musuem does not recieve any financial support from the Brazilian government. As a result, its financial ressources essentially come from donors and sponsors. The museum’s operating costs prevent it from generating enough revenue. It is partly due to the aftermath of the Olympic Games organized by Rio de Janeiro. The oil prices drop as well as the recession that hit Brazil from 2015 to 2016 add up to the situation. Political instability does not make it easier for cultural institutions which struggle to find the support they need to go forward.

A sell for 30 years of survival

In order to end the budget deficit and to ensure its survival, the museum proposed to sell a unique master piece from its collection. It would be the Artwork entitled “No. 16” by Jackson Pollock made in 1950. The canvas was donated by American Vice President Nelson Rockfeller in 1954. Also, it was one of the few Artworks that survived the fire that destroyed nearly 90% of the museum’s collection in 1978. Its estimated value is 25 million dollars. It has been decided that it would be offered to other museums first prior to contact auction houses. According to experts, the sell could enable the museum to operate for 30 years. Of course, selling master pieces to overcome financial deficits remains a burning issue as explained in our article about La Salle University.

Two Artworks by Jackson Pollock at the MoMA in New York

Two Artworks by Jackson Pollock at the MoMA in New York © Gorup de Besanez

An disputed decision

As soon as the museum announced its decision, several people spoke up to denounce the sell. Indeed, the Brazilian Institute of Museums, a branch of the ministry of culture in charge of 30 public museums, sent a letter the day before the minister’s official statement. The institute wrote: “we are fully aware of the profound financial difficulties facing Brazilian museums, [but] would like to consider that the preservation of its collections is […] imperative.” However the Brazilian minister of culture approved the museum’s decision. Indeed, he stated: “although the work is of unquestionable relevance, its sale alone is sufficient to raise the necessary resources to create an endowment that will ensure the sustainability of the [museum and allow it to] become less vulnerable to crisis.”

Rio de Janeiro's Bay in Brazil

Rio de Janeiro’s Bay, Brazil © Pexels


Read our article about the British staying away from national museums here.

Sources: The Art Newspaper and Hyperallergic