Despite an effort to delay it by a group of citizens, the Salina Public Library has indicated it plans to proceed with the sale of two valuable Birger Sandzen paintings from its collection at auction this weekend. The library issued a statement via social media Wednesday, acknowledging that though the “decision is not something everyone supports”, withdrawing the artwork from the auction is simply not an option legally or otherwise.
At issue are a couple of valuable Birger Sandzen paintings in the library’s collection. Each was donated to the library in the 1920s. Earlier this summer, over concerns including the cost of insurance and maintenance of the valuable artwork, the library board of directors decided to sell the two oil paintings and several prints.
For more than 100 years the major Sandzen oil paintings have been in the possession of the Salina Public Library. The work titled “Smoky River“, listed at a starting bid of $30,000, has belonged to the Library since 1921. The work titled “Golden Aspens“, listed at a starting bid of $40,000, has belonged to the library since 1929.
According to the library, they are not equipped to maintain fine art, and they already needed to restore one of the paintings.
The organization says realizing that the paintings would continue to deteriorate in their care, the board considered the options and consulted with the Birger Sandzn Memorial Gallery. The board discussed this issue over two meetings (May & June) and received no feedback from the public. The board voted unanimously to sell the paintings through a fine arts auction house that was recommended by the Sandzen Gallery.
This week a group of citizens began a petition, urging the Salina Public Library to reconsider selling the art and to instead allow for further discussion.
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Salina Public Library full statement:
The Salina Public Library (SPL) recently learned there are concerns related to the sale of Sandzén art owned by the library and currently under contract for auction. SPL works to provide the best possible service to the public. As an entity that strives to serve our community, we are called to prioritize the best use of taxpayer funding for our services, resources, staff, and facilities. It is our responsibility to spend our limited funds in a way that benefits the greatest needs as expressed by the community we serve as a whole.