Scripps Museum Breaches Art Ethics Code

The Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College breached national curating guidelines last month when it listed art dealer Frank Lloyd as an exhibition’s co-curator.      

The American Association Of Museums’ 2009 Ethics Code prohibits parties with commercial interests from curating exhibits in non-profit venues.    

The exhibit in question is called “Clay’s Tectonic Shift: Jon Mason, Ken Price, Peter Voulkos, 1956-1968.” The show, which features ceramic works by California artists, opened Jan. 21 and runs through April 8. The exhibition is part of Pacific Standard Time, a collaborative effort among Southern Californian museums aiming to showcase works from the postwar Los Angeles art scene. The show was funded by grants made by the Getty and is curated by both gallery manager Kirk Delman and Loyd, who represents the estate of the late Voulkos and sells works by Price.      

Loyd told the L.A. Times that he was unaware of the ethics guidelines and did not have any financial motives.     

“Frank Lloyd had the original documents—exhibition brochures that were out of print and not available in any library,” said Mary MacNaughton, Scripps Professor of Art History and gallery director. “So we continually went back to him to get material and realized into the project that his contribution had been substantial.”         

In addition to contributing important historical source material, Lloyd contacted the private collectors who lent works to the exhibition. He wrote a scholarly article for the catalog accompanying the exhibition and did much of the fact-checking for the other four articles in the catalog.         

“Designating him co-curator does not mean that he was the decision maker in terms of what is in the exhibition,” MacNaughton said.  “Those decisions had been made. But we wanted to give him more than scant thanks in the acknowledgments.” 

“If you are always focused on the ‘correct’ thing to do, you miss the opportunity for the right thing to do,” she said. “I believe we did the right thing in acknowledging him.”

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