The question of whether museums should be allowed to deaccession pieces of art in order to pay for operating expenses is an interesting one and the New York Times piece today
comparing the practices of art museums and history museums is worth reading.
But it got me to thinking about who should be responsible for enforcing such regulations. Up until now it's largely been the museums themselves and the art community. But there was a debate in the New York State legislature recently about passing a law on this. Though the piece doesn't say so, it's presumably the museums' status as nonprofit entities that allows state governments to consider this kind of regulation at all. (The New York legislature doesn't usually tell businesses which assets it much keep or sell in order to stay afloat... though with Albany's proclivities, who knows?)
Also, I wonder whether the fact that museums have these sort of industry rules they generally follow makes donors comfortable giving them art in the first place. More to the point, I wonder whether donors would be more explicit about their intentions for the art if they knew that museums were not necessarily being guided by these principles. Would each donor then provide for the caring of their art, not just the art itself? Or would they extract clearer promises from museums about what was to be done with the works in the longrun?