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Just a few of the 10,000 works in the Jersey City Museum collection that may have an uncertain future. Top row (left to right); David Wojnarowicz, “Untitled” (1982), Conrad Marca-Relli, “S-4-62” (1962), Romare Bearden, “Three Women” (c. 1975); Middle row (l to r): Allison Saar, “Blue Plate Special” (nd); Mathew Brady, “Mary Todd Lincoln” (1861); Robert Indiana, “Amor” (nd); Bottom row (l to r): Nancy Spero, “Ballade von der Judenhure Marie Sanders” (1991); William Pope L., “Untitled” (1999). (images via jerseycitymuseum.org)

In what almost sounds like an obituary for the Jersey City Museum, The Star Ledger is reporting the following about the ailing art institution:

… what may be the best contemporary art collection in the state, is so strapped for cash that it can’t keep the lights on.

The reader, FH, who tipped us off to the article also sent us some questions we don’t have the answer to yet, namely:

Where was the fiscal oversight? How could a 100-year-old institution go belly up without so much as a peep from civic institutions? Have the artists in the permanent collection been notified of the institution’s closure? Who is safeguarding the art?

All excellent questions, and to be honest the tone of the Star Ledge article doesn’t answer much though it quotes a Museum board member, Ofelia Garcia, who assures the newspaper that the ” … collection is professionally cared for, safe and growing.” I have trouble believing that the museum and its collection is “safe and growing” considering, according to the same article, “it is behind on mortgage payments,” “the museum ended 2009 with a $243,000 budget gap,” and “it still owes more than $2.9 million on that [$11 million] mortgage.”

When we first heard that the Museum may actually be closed — even if not officially — it was through a tip sent to us before Christmas. When we received the tip, we called the Museum and spoke to the custodian, who assured us that it wasn’t closed but that everyone was on vacation through to January 4 or 5, 2011. When our reporter asked if the building was fine, the gentleman responded, “Well, uhhh, mostly” and then confirmed that the power was indeed on.

We will update the situation as we hear more. Like we said, so many questions and few answers.

Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

One reply on “Jersey City Museum RIP?”

  1. Thank you for posting this valuable. I have a few additional questions.

    Who is safeguarding the collection? Who is checking the collection for signs of signs of deterioration, which may require immediate attention and treatment? We’re currently in a deep freeze. In general, works of art must never be placed in close proximity to sources of heat, cold or strong air-currents. Temperature should not vary by more than four degrees in any twenty-four hour period in a museum. Extreme fluctuations in temperature and humidity can damage works of art. Is the temperature being regulated in the building? In addition, not all artwork requires same care. Many objects need complex or unusual environmental requirements.

    Here is a list of artists who have work in the permanent collection: Alice Neel, Lorna Simpson, Adrian Piper, Mary Beth Edelson, Louise Nevelson, Jacob Lawrence, Louise Bourgeois, Adrian Piper, Chakaia Booker, James Rosenquist, Adrian Piper, Robert Gober, Leon Golub, William Pope L., Willie Cole, Vargas-Suarez Universal, Xenobia Bailey, Raphael Montañez Ortiz.

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