AAMD Sanctions Delaware Art Museum After Sale of Artwork


The New York-based Association of Art Museum Directors has sanctioned the Delaware Art Museum (DAM) following the sale of a painting from its collection at Christie’s in London on Tuesday. William Holman Hunt’s Isabella and the Pot of Basil (1868), acquired by the museum in 1947, sold to an anonymous bidder for $4.25 million.

As reported earlier this year by A.i.A., the museum has suffered extensive financial troubles since its $32.5-million, 20,000-square-foot expansion and renovation in 2005. The DAM has turned to selling artwork in order to help pay off outstanding debt and replenish its endowment. The board of trustees announced its intention to sell up to four works. AAMD has asked its members to suspend the loan of works of art to the museum and to refrain from collaborative exhibitions with the museum.

While the institution has yet to confirm which other works have been selected for auction, the Wall Street Journal has speculated that Winslow Homer’s Milking Time (1875) will be next for sale.

AAMD condemned the museum for “treating works from its collection as disposable assets, rather than irreplaceable cultural heritage,” in a statement today. The organization says it reached out to the museum multiple times in the last six months leading up to Tuesday’s auction, offering assistance to research alternative options, including a campaign for private funding. 

Founded in 1916, the Association of Art Museum Directors is a professional organization comprising 242 museum directors from institutions across the United States, Canada and Mexico.