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Friday, December 15, 2017

Defaulting Folk Art Museum Says It Won’t Sell Works to Pay Debt

"The Peaceable Kingdom with the Leopard of Serenity," by Edward Hicks, a painting from 1846-1848. Ralph O. Esmerian, chairman emeritus of New York's American Folk Art Museum, had to sell the painting when his jewelry business filed for bankruptcy in 2008. "The Peaceable Kingdom with the Leopard of Serenity," by Edward Hicks, a painting from 1846-1848. Ralph O. Esmerian, chairman emeritus of New York's American Folk Art Museum, had to sell the painting when his jewelry business filed for bankruptcy in 2008. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

The American Folk Art Museum won’t sell its collection to pay interest on $31.9 million it borrowed to construct a new building, after defaulting on payments in July 2009, the institution’s director said.

The museum, down the block from the Museum of Modern Art, will sell art only “to purchase for the collection,” Executive Director Maria Ann Conelli said in an interview, adding that she expects to have a balanced budget for the fiscal year ending June 30. “We’ve been hitting our target every single month.”

The Manhattan institution has missed a total of $3.7 million in payments to a debt service fund for the new premises, a Jan. 5 filing to bondholders said. Total missed payments are up by about $2 million in the past year -- averaging $7,700 each weekday.

Acclaimed exhibits -- such as “Women Only: Folk Art by Female Hands” featuring paintings, drawings and quilts -- failed to attract the attendance and revenue levels projected in 2000. Last month’s filing said the museum doesn’t expect to make payments into the fund “for the foreseeable future.”

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