White Report

Oh the indignity! All day long yesterday (and still) the Skinner’s site reported that Frank Weston Benson’s Figure in White, recently deaccessioned by the Salem Public Library so that funds could be raised to fix a fountain, went unsold, but now the Salem News is reporting that BENTON’s painting went for $300,000, far below its estimate. And in other news, we had our first snow storm, which cast everything in white–more, much more apparently, to come on Tuesday. Winter has arrived rather later here in eastern New England, but it appears to be making an entrance!

Benson Figure in White

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Frank Weston BENSON’s Figure in White, and more white outside.



8 responses to “White Report

  • Jessica Herbert

    Makes you wonder if Frank Benson’s painting received the proper notice. I wish the Peabody Essex had purchased it and kept it in Salem. Do we know the purchaser, or is it confidential?

  • daseger

    It still sells “unsold” on the Skinner site, so I’m a bit confused. Very embarrassing that the News can’t even get the name right in their headline.

  • Jessica Herbert

    Frank is Benson is a celebrated graduate of the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts (my school as well). You would think that the Salem Library Trustees would have contacted both the Boston Museum and the Peabody Essex directly before letting his painting go to auction. Who knows, maybe they did. However, as a City of Salem institution, the public should be able to know all the details of this unfortunate sale.

  • The Down East Dilettante

    It probably isn’t fair to comment too strongly, for I have no idea of the particular economic or political realities of the Salem Library, but it does seem bizarre, given the long and fine tradition of art in libraries in New England, and that libraries are supposed to be havens for the humanities, that the board became so convinced that the painting would just be carried out the door, and that they had no responsibility to the community or the Benson family to keep the painting for public benefit. (I do not speak from a totally naive viewpoint, however. I am a former long term trustee and board president of our local library, where this would be the subject of community outrage should such a de-accession be made).

    In related news, I’ve been reading Nicholson Baker’s superb and depressing ‘Double Fold’, about the wholesale destruction and disposal of historic newspapers by libraries. Although now more than a decade old, it also reminds us of what happens when trends in library ‘science’ spin out of control.

  • Peg

    Good news amidst the blizzard….I received an email from Elizabeth Haff, Specialist of American & European Works of Art at Skinner. She said the painting didn’t sell and they notified the Salem News about their error. Perhaps a fund raiser is in the distant horizon, once all the snow melts.

  • downeastdilettante

    And here we have a prime example of the fickleness of the art market, one currently driven by what is chic and new. A decade ago, Benson was having a hot moment in the market. This is the same shift in taste and attitude that doomed the Loring House.

    On the bright side, now the library doesn’t have to worry so much about its desirability to thieves, and maybe now they’ll put it back where the non-thieving public can enjoy it?

    • daseger

      That would be very appropriate. I’ve been kind of miffed that there was not more outrage over this sale in Salem, but then I realized that, like myself, few people have ever seen the painting! I know–bad market for “brown” furniture, which is why I’m buying!

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