Two high-profile artists have resigned from the board of the Baltimore Museum of Art ahead of a Sotheby’s sale of paintings from the institution’s collection.
Artists Adam Pendleton and Amy Sherald have departed the BMA’s board as the institution continues to face pushback over the deaccessioning of works by Andy Warhol, Clyfford Still, and Brice Marden. The Art Newspaper reported news of the resignations on Friday.
A representative for Pace Gallery, which represents Pendleton, confirmed that the artist had resigned from the board but said that he declined to comment. A representative for Hauser & Wirth, the gallery that represents Sherald, said that Sherald was unavailable for comment.
In a statement, a BMA spokesperson said, “Adam Pendleton and Amy Sherald determined that they could not fully participate in board activities due to other commitments and have resigned. We are grateful for the time they invested and for the perspectives and ideas that they brought to the BMA.”
The news comes as two major donors pull funding from the museum in response to the deaccessioning plan. Two former chairmen of the board, Charles Newhall III and Stiles Colwill, said they would rescind their pledges of $30 million and $20 million, respectively, according to the Washington Post.
On Wednesday, Sotheby’s is expected to sell artworks by Still and Marden for more than $10 million each in New York. The third work to be deaccessioned by the BMA, a 25-and-a-half-foot-long Warhol silkscreen riffing on The Last Supper, is being sold privately by the auction house for $40 million.
According to the Art Newspaper, Newhall, who has resigned as an honorary trustee, wrote a letter to the museum alleging that director Christopher Bedford was “stacking the board with artists that he promotes, and the BMA has bought paintings from. This appears to be a serious conflict of interest.”
Sherald reportedly took issue with this, writing in her own letter, “I take umbrage for my nomination as an artist and subsequent selection as a trustee for being unjustifiably highlighted in Chuck Newhall’s resignation.” Both she and Pendleton did not express opinions about the deaccessioning in their written statements explaining their resignations.
The selling of the works by Warhol, Marden, and Still has provoked the ire of many in the art world, including a number of former trustees at the BMA. Earlier this month, 11 former trustees demanded a formal investigation into the museum’s practices by Maryland’s secretary of state and attorney general.
Leaders at the museum have continued to defend the deaccessioning, saying that it is compliant with new regulations from the Association of Art Museum Directors, which has said that, until April 2022, institutions can sell works from their holdings to support direct care of the collection. The funds gained from the sale of the three works will go toward an initiative intended to bring art by women and nonwhite artists into the BMA holdings, as well as to the salaries of some who work at the institution, with the aim of promoting “internal equity.”