Beginning with the 2012 Art Sale Referendum, the leadership of UBC’s Alma Mater Society (AMS) has expressed a waxing and waning interest in selling art pieces from it’s permanent collection. The following is a brief summary of events; a referendum authorizing the sale of artwork passed in 2012 that was never acted upon, another referendum passes in 2017 without the same limiting timeframe as the first, and in 2018 Jean Paul Lemieux’s painting Jeune Fille en Uniforme (1957) was deaccessioned and subsequently sold for $361 250 through the Hefel Fine Art Auction House. . After this, the AMS tried to sell two more pieces by A.Y. Jackson and E.J Hughes, the later of which was the first piece in the collection. The sale was halted by strong opposition from the Visual Arts community at UBC.
These moves to sell artwork were controversial, and raised a litany of questions that parallel those being asked by museums across the world at the time. Is it ethical for art that is kept serving the public to be sold for the institutions financial gain? Who should be responsible for making deaccessioning decisions? why do we keep art if it is rarely seen?
My project begins with a short literature review of current thought towards deaccessioning artwork, mostly within the museum setting, with the hope of beginning to tease out precedent for the 2018 AMS sale. With this context, I enter the Archival record and ask how these ethical quandaries were considered (or not considered) from the inception of the art sale idea to the present day.
In the interest of rethinking research practices, this project also serves as an experiment in a radically transparent use of the archive. As I comb through the records (primarily AMS Student Council meetings), I am highlighting mentions of the collection and posting these excerpts to this website, and linking to the full document rather than just citing. I am adding my own commentary that looks to connect these fragments of memory with the larger scholarly debate, while also being honest about my perspective as both a researcher and a member of the UBC art community that has a vested interest in the collection. You can access this research by clicking through the links in the timeline below.
The questions I am seeking answers for are as follows; what were the reasons selling artwork was originally considered, and how do these reasons fit into the ethical conversation? What kind of ethical considerations were present in conversations around choosing an artwork to sell? Who was involved in making these decisions, and how were opposing voices considered?
Ultimately my hope is that this website will serve as an annotated research guide for future researchers and curious students. I understand that it is impossible to paint a complete picture within the span of this project, and fully expect it to be reworked and added to through these future interactions.
 Yasmine Whaley-Kalaora, “The Works of the AMS Art Collection (yes, all of them): About the Exhibition”, 2020, https://www.hatchartgallery.com/the-works-of-the-ams-art-collection.
TIMELINE: click through each event for research + commentary
Between 2010 and 2011 an idea to “sell the art” begins to form in the AMS council. Is art an asset?
The 2012 AMS election included a referendum that asked students to authorize the sale of up to 3 artworks. Why was this on the table, and what promises were made during the “YES” campaign?
The committee formed out of the 2012 referendum only existed for 1 year and didn’t sell any art. Why was this?
Not much happened in 2013-2015.
The idea to sell art re-emerges in 2016 as the student government seems to forget the reports and sins of the past.
The 2017 AMS election included the organization’s second pitch to the students for an art sale. This time, it didn’t have an expiration date.
SHAPE COMMITTEE FORMATION + FIRST YEAR
The infamous Sale of Hatch Art Planning and Execution (SHAPE) committee was founded in the summer of 2017, and remained pretty stagnant over it’s first year.
In an unsurprising turn of events, a painting is sold just over $300 000 at auction to a private buyer.
A POST SALE WORLD: ART KIDS COME TO COUNCIL
Moves to sell two more pieces in 2019 and 2020 come to face with opposition from the UBC Visual Arts Community. The (not) last chapter in our story.
ABOUT ME (IN PURSUIT OF TRANSPARENCY)
My name is Tatiana (She/Her). This website was created as part of my 4th year at UBC for a Seminar in Canadian Art and Activism. I am majoring in Art History and Anthropology.
I have passively volunteered at The Hatch in my first and second years (2017-2019), and have also been involved in the Art History Student’s Association in varying capacities throughout my time at UBC. I was employed at the AMS Archives in 2018 for two semesters. Despite all these connections I was only vaguely aware of the Art Collection and the efforts to sell certain pieces until February 2020, when much of the undergraduate community was called upon to intervene in a Council meeting.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, concerns, or thoughts!