In a rare move, the Whitney Museum of American Art will deaccession seven works from its collection, by Edward Hopper and other artists, at Sotheby’s next month.
A Whitney spokesperson said in a statement that the decision to sell the artworks came after an “in-depth multi-year study of [the museum’s] collection.” Proceeds from the sale will be used to “support future acquisitions.”
Hopper’s plaintive landscape Cobb’s Barns, South Truro (1930–33) highlights the group of works being offered by the Whitney. It will hit the block at Sotheby’s Modern art evening auction on May 16, carrying a pre-sale estimate of $8 million to $12 million.
Also up for sale are three Hopper watercolors, two pieces by John Marin, and an oil painting by Maurice Prendergast. These artworks will be featured in Sotheby’s Modern art day sale on May 17.
Representatives from Sotheby’s did not immediately respond to inquiries about their estimates.
“The works were carefully reviewed and selected by Whitney Museum stakeholders as part of this scholarly examination of the institution’s collections,” the statement went on. “It was determined that the works were duplicative within the collection. The Whitney looks forward to continuing to build and expand its collection.”
Hopper is particularly well-represented in the museum’s holdings. Notably, none of the artist’s works set to appear at auction were included in the Whitney’s recently closed retrospective of the artist. (Cobb’s Barns, South Truro did hang in the Oval Office during Barack Obama’s presidency.)
Jane Panetta, a curator and director of the collection at the Whitney, expanded upon the museum’s forthcoming sales in an interview with , which first reported the deaccession plan.
“We want to grow the collection,” she said. “This is part of hitting that goal, and it’s a goal we’ve had for a while, really since the museum moved to its current location in 2015.”
Panetta pointed to the Whitney’s founding mission to show work by living American artists, noting that all three painters represented in next month’s sales have long been diseased.
“We’re always thinking about how one defines ‘the museum of American art,’ being mindful of wanting the collection to accurately represent the United States,” she explained. “We think that means the collection has to evolve. We have to try and close critical gaps, and having endowment funds for acquisitions is a key means to doing that.”