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Baltimore Museum of Art sells art to raise funds toward diversity, inclusion

The Baltimore Museum of Art is selling three works that it hopes will raise $65 million. They include one by Andy Warhol.

This is an effort to continue the museum's work with diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion.

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"It's an historic moment for the museum," BMA Director Christopher Bedford said.

While closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the BMA used the time to look internally at how it could more aggressively reflect the ideals on its walls.

The endowment for the future is an ambitious plan. It will dedicate funds directly toward diversity, internal equity and increasing accessibility for the community.

"We're in the grip of a renaissance in this country and that renaissance is being led principally by Black American artists who are redefining the role of artists in society, and we want to make them the leading edge of this institution, which we have done very successfully," Bedford said.

The BMA is taking advantage of a rule change that allows them to use art sale proceeds differently. Its 23 curators decided to sell works by Brice Marden, Clyfford Still and "The Last Supper" by Andy Warhol. The sales are expected to generate approximately $65 million.

Those pieces of art were chosen because they stand to bring in the most money. Plus, the BMA says it has a disproportionate number of white male artists in its collection.

"We distort in the direction of dead white males because that's the history of art that's always been told in civic institutions. So we're not unusual to the extent that, we want to radically correct that to be a more truthful institution," Bedford said.

BMA says $10 million will go to acquiring works from women and artists of color.

The proceeds will also go toward providing a livable wage to its employees and create paid fellowships that could put more curators of color in the industry pipeline. Right now, the permanent collection is free to the public, but the sale of the artwork will allow even greater access.

"We will be open one night per week until 9 p.m. which means people with inflexible works hours can experience the BMA and we will eliminate all charges for changing exhibitions," Bedford said.

Sotheby's will auction the art this fall through public auction and private sale.


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