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Impropriety Not the Issue

November 05, 1988

Over the past year, I have been pleased to see The Times' increasing coverage of the local visual arts scene and am appreciative of the fact that you have an art critic, Leah Ollman, who brings academic art history training to her reviews. However, I must express my profound dismay at (her Oct. 28) article.

It is especially troubling to have this specter of impropriety raised when it would seem the writer has been derelict in her responsibility to research a subject before making accusations. Museum ethics is a very complex and difficult area--a mine field in which much damage can be done. I believe that Ollman's commentary reflects her own ignorance and naivete, and I would hope that in future she have her facts straight before pontificating with such assurance.

For example, did she speak with anyone at the American Assn. of Museums, the national accrediting organization for museums? She should have been aware that the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art recently went through the rigorous AAM accreditation process with flying colors--a thorough review by an objective team of museum professionals who judge an institution upon the highest standards of ethics and procedures. Coincidentally, the AAM's accreditation team judging our museum included Henry Hopkins, the very expert Ollman quotes at the start of her commentary.

Did Ollman call Henry Hopkins himself and ask his opinion about "Local Color"? Did she seek out the opinions of other museum directors, here in San Diego as well as in other cities?

Did she contact the Assn. of Art Museum Directors? As the national organization representing directors of major U. S. art museums, the AAMD has issued specific guidelines and rulings on the subject of ethics. In fact, I am a member of the AAMD's Ethics Committee, which frequently discusses and debates museum ethics. Alleged cases of conflict of interest or questionable art-collecting practices by trustees have been brought before our committee for rulings, and I can assure you that my colleagues and I have spent a good deal of time considering all the ramifications of these ethical questions.

In its actions, its policies and its procedures, the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art is very aware of potential conflicts of interest, and it is completely specious and erroneous to suggest that there has been any impropriety or quid pro quo involved in the museum's exhibition of Contemporary Collectors' works in the "Local Color" show.



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