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Museum visitors to vote on which painting to keep
Bernard Smol (French, 1897–1969), Le Prophet Job (The Prophet Job), n.d. Encaustic on canvas, 31 1/2 x 39 inches. Georgia Museum of Art.

ATHENS, GA.- The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia will hosts the exhibition “Deaccessioning Bernard Smol” May 25 to July 7, 2013, in the Martha Thompson Dinos Gallery. The exhibition features five paintings by the French artist Bernard Smol (1897–1969) that are currently in the museum’s collection. Due to limited storage space and evolving collecting philosophy, the museum staff has decided to “deaccession,” or remove from its collection, all but one of the works. Visitors will be able to vote on which one they would like the museum to keep, and the curatorial staff will take those votes into consideration.

Deaccessioning is a lengthy and complex process. First, the museum must give public notice of its intent. The museum's collections committee and Board of Advisors and UGA's president must all approve that intent. Only then can the work be removed from the collection, often to be sold at public auction, to keep the process as transparent as possible. Proceeds, if the works is sold, must be used for acquisitions, to prevent monetizing the collection. Violation of appropriate deaccessioning procedure can lead to sanctions by such professional organizations as the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), of which GMOA is a member. Sanctions can mean the loss of the ability to borrow works from other museums or even the loss of accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums. The museum’s director, William Underwood Eiland, has served on AAMD’s Deaccessioning Task Force and is an expert in the field.

Eiland asked the museum’s curators to begin assembling a list of works to consider deaccessioning. Lynn Boland, the museum’s Pierre Daura Curator of European Art, suggested the paintings by Smol as well as mounting this small exhibition to educate the public about the process of removing works from the collection. The works have not been shown at GMOA since their initial exhibition in 1959, around the time the museum’s founder and first director, Alfred Heber Holbrook, decided to purchase them. Several of them were lent to Middle Georgia College shortly thereafter, for a traveling exhibition, but they have been rarely viewed.

All five works are oil paintings on canvas of comparable dimensions, styles and significance, which, according to Boland, would make it difficult to decide which one to keep except for a difference in their exhibition histories and the ways in which they entered the collection.

Boland said, “Deaccessioning is never something to take lightly, and we strive to be as careful and transparent as possible. This exhibition gives us a chance to examine and explain the process while soliciting input from the public on the future of their collection.” Boland says credit for the idea for the exhibition is due to DePaul University in Chicago, which organized a similar deaccessioning exhibition, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, in 2010.

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