SHAPE in 2018-2019

The new academic year brings new leadership; Marium Hamid is the AMS’ new president and thus takes the chair position in the SHAPE committee. The following are mentions of the committee as they ramped up towards selling art.

AMS Student Council Minutes // June 20, 2018 //pg. 210

Marium mentions here that the AMS has been “approached by an auction house” already, and that she did an interview with the Ubyssey about SHAPE.

This Ubyssey article gives a good glimpse inside where SHAPE was at this time. Firstly, two paintings are finally identified; Jean Paul Lemieux’s Jeune Fille En Uniforme and Rodney Graham’s Psychopathology of Everyday Life. The reasons for these works are cited as their condition and increased value, and the fact that they were directly aquired by the AMS rather than gifted. Maxim Greer (Art Gallery Director at the time) invokes the word “ethical” here, which is the first time the ethics of the sale have been brought up in any form.

In terms of finances, the article states that the AMS is intending to pursue a sale through Heffel, who appear to have contacted the AMS rather than the SHAPE committee choosing between multiple options. This is slightly confusing to me, as later in the same interview Marium says “once the sale is done, we have no say in how the art is presents (presented?), or kept, or preserved” and then suggests selling or loaning the art to the Belkin or Alumni center to increase the collection’s visibility without selling it. Perhaps this quote is out of context, but from my vantage point it seems like the AMS does have a huge say in both how the art is sold and what they do with the collection; they are literally the governing body that oversee the entire thing, and Marium is the president. The referendum did not mandate the AMS to sell art, it only authorized them to do so; there is nothing stoppig the AMS from pursuing these options.

Marium also says the resulting profit from the sale would go towards restoring the collection. This is all good and fine, but what happened to the programming promises; the artist in residence program, or a hired events coordinator for the Hatch? The endowment fund?

Student Council Minutes // July 11, 2018 // pg 229

Here, Marium reinforces the idea that works should be chosen outside of the Group of Seven. This shows a departure from the idea that the most expensive works should be sold, and introduces another type of rationale to the sale in terms of maintaining the “integrity” of the collection.

Student Council Minutes // August 1, 2018 // pg. 252

On August 1st, 2018 the AMS council receives a presentation from Robert Heffel concerning a contract to sell the Lemieux piece. Neither the contract nor the presentation were made available to me, but it was written about in the Ubyssey.

This might be an error on the Ubyssey’s part, but the collection is stated as being valued at $3.6 million when so far it has been reffered to as 4-4.5 $million.

Maxim states a lack of ethical or legal issues with the sale because the works are not donated. The funds are re-stated to being committed to maintaining other works. Robert Heffel makes an odd comment here, that makes it seem like the auction house has been waiting to sell the work for years.

Heffel also indicates interest in selling more art from the collection.

Student Council Minutes // August 29, 2018 // pg. 292
Student Council Minutes // September 26th, 2018 //pg. 328
Student Council Minutes // October 23, 2018 // pg. 373

The work is shipped off to the auction house and a note is made that the sales catalogue includes an essay on the AMS collection (with pictures).

Student Council Minutes // November 28, 2018 // pg. 456

SOLD! Jean Paul Lemieux’s Jeune Fille En Uniforme is sold to a private buyer for $361 000. The allocation of the money is NOT confirmed at this stage. Marium seems uncertain of the future at this point, stating that the committee may choose to “just dissolve”.

Design Claire Lloyd/Photos courtesy UBC Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory and Elizabeth Wang/Art AMS permanent collection, altered by author.

Marium Hamid shows concern for the value of the Art Collection; in a Ubyssey article published in June of 2018, she raises ideas towards increased accessibility for the pieces, and even working the the Belkin to have the art be seen by more students. Regardless, the deal with Heffel continues as the AMS council signs a contract with the Heffel Auction House towards the sale of Jean Paul Lemieux's Jeune Fille En Uniforme. In a subsequent Ubyssey article, Robert Heffel expresses that this is a sale that has been in the work for years, and that Heffel has been interested in making a deal some time now. This begs the question; did the SHAPE committee ever look into alternate options, such as selling to a public institution or a long term loan? Although choosing to sell a piece that wasn't a gift indicates some consideration of ethics, why was this not extended to thinking through how a collection owned collectively by students should be treated; through what avenues should a sale happen, and to whom? The painting sold for $361 000, on the low end of a predicted $300 000-500 000. Although putting the money into an endowment funds and using the interest to fund programming was a campaign promise for the referendum, this idea has been lost to the ether. Maxim Greer insists that the money will be used to conserve other works, which is a noble idea. This being said, Marium says the SHAPE committee still needs to decide how to spend the cash. The sale of Jeune Fille was done in a wholey non-transparent way, and it seems like options other than auctioning the work through Heffel were barely, if at all, considered. The thought Maxim Greer put into the selection of the work on ethical grounds and the insistence the money go towards maintaining the existing collection seem right out of a museum ethics guidebook. However, it seems like any alternate ideas away from the auction house are tossed aside at this stage, and the work is sold with no input from the students who own it (of course, the referendum was passed in 2017 but under spectacularly vague terms). Going forward, it seems like Heffel is keen on other work in the AMS collection, and the AMS is still authorized to sell 3 works. What happens next?