On Wednesday, January 3, LaSalle University announced its plan to auction off 46 works of art held at its Art Museum to meet certain educational initiatives as part of a five-year strategic plan. LaSalle’s collection contains a total of 5000 works, many of which are not on display but are held in the university’s database. Of the works that will be sold, 36 are on display while 10 will be taken from storage.
LaSalle’s decision is motivated not by a need for the selling of art but rather by the idea that selling the art could benefit the school more than keeping it.
This topic was first brought to my attention in a Philosophy of Art class which I am currently taking. In the class, we discussed the impact of selling the art, the value of art, and the concept of who actually owns works of art.
With regard to this topic, it is important to understand who the art actually belongs to and for what purpose an institution would choose to sell its art.
I have visited the LaSalle Art Museum numerous times and have found its wide selection of various works from different time periods to be one of its best features. Although relatively small in comparison to other museums I have visited, the Art Museum of LaSalle is extremely important to LaSalle’s liberal arts curriculum.
Brother Daniel Burke opened the doors to the museum in 1976 with the understanding that art can have a transformative effect on individuals as communicated by the university’s patron saint, St. Jean Baptiste de La Salle. Burke wanted the students of LaSalle as well as the local community to have access to LaSalle’s Art Museum.
I asked three LaSalle students about their opinion regarding LaSalle’s decision to sell 46 works of art from its art museum.
Tom, a junior communication major, said the decision did not personally bother him but he felt bad for students who really enjoy visiting the Art Museum. Overall, though, he has no objections to their decision: “Hopefully it [will] impact the community positively because of the money we’re getting from it.”
Justin, a sophomore criminal justice major, felt differently about the matter. He said, “I actually don’t agree with LaSalle doing that. LaSalle doesn’t have any right to be selling the art to other people for profit.”
Teagan, a junior communication major, is uncertain about the impact LaSalle’s decision to sell its art could have on the community. “I feel like it could be a good thing,” he said. “It depends upon what the money goes to.”