The Art Institute of Chicago was founded as both a museum and school for the fine arts in 1879. Since then, the permanent collection has grown from plaster casts to nearly 300,000 works of art in fields ranging from Chinese bronzes to contemporary design, from textiles to installation art.
In its mission to collect, preserve, and interpret works of art of the highest quality, representing the world’s diverse artistic traditions, the museum adheres to our profession’s highest ethical standards and practices. Learn more about the museum’s collection care and development practices.
Deaccessioning is the process of removing a work of art from the museum’s permanent collection. The museum continues to own an object after it has been deaccessioned; the object is simply no longer part of the permanent collection. Disposal is the transfer of ownership, or other disposition of an object, after the object has been deaccessioned.
An object may be deaccessioned for many reasons, including: the object is not in keeping with the museum’s mission or the character of the permanent collection; the object is intrinsically poor in quality or lacks aesthetic or historical importance; a better and comparable example is in the collection or is being considered for acquisition; the object is a duplicate of an object in the collection; the object is in such poor condition that it cannot feasibly be restored to a state worthy of display in the museum; the authenticity or attribution of the object is determined to be false or fraudulent; the museum is unable to care for the object because of the object’s unusual display, storage, or treatment requirements; the museum’s possession of the object may not be consistent with applicable law; and other reasons as circumstances arise. In most cases, the decision whether to initiate a deaccession is left to the discretion of the curatorial staff in consultation with the president and director. If an object is definitively determined to be a forgery, however, it will be deaccessioned to maintain the integrity of the permanent collection.
The museum regularly publishes deaccessioned objects here.