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Baltimore Museum of Art selling works by white men to fund diverse art

Works by Andy Warhol, Franz Kline, and more are going to auction to make way for art by women and people of colour

Major museums and galleries in the west have, for decades, told a very singular history of art. In a bid to make the collections at the Baltimore Museum of Art more diverse, seven works by 20th-century masters, including Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Franz Kline will be auctioned off. This is to make room for pieces by contemporary artists of colour and female artists. 

The city of Baltimore is 63.7 per cent black, according to the 2010 census, yet its flagship museum fails to show off the proportionate number of works by African-American Artists — a gap which Christopher Bedford, the director of the museum, hopes to remedy. Speaking to Artnet, he said this move comes at a monumental time, where the “most important artists working today, in my view, are black Americans”.

Warhol’s “Oxidation Painting” (1978), part-homage, part-offence to Jackson Pollock, will be auctioned at Sotheby’s in May, with hopes of raising $3 million for the museum. Other works to be auctioned include Kline’s “Green Cross” (1956), Robert Rauschenberg’s “Bank Job” (1979), Kenneth Noland’s “Lapis Lazuli” (1963), and “In-Vital” (1982). The sales should hopefully total $12 million.

This money will be used to create a ‘war chest’ to fund future assets of art made after 1943 by women and artists of colour. 

In the same meeting where the decision was made about the seven artworks, the board of trustees confirmed the acquisition of the nine artists who will be taking their place, four of the artists being people of colour. Works by Mark Bradford, John T. Scott, Jack Whitten, and Zanele Muholi will feature. 

Bedford said in a press statement that the museum had to collate work by more diverse artists to reflect history and relevancy. He said it was important to build “a collection which is more relevant to the community it serves”.