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Tokyo’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MoT) has been criticised by auditors for failing to value 1,400 works from its collection. The museum, which has a permanent collection of 3,800 works, was formerly the responsibility of the Board of Education but has been run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government since April.

External auditors, who scrutinise all the Metropolitan Government’s assets, have now insisted that the museum value the works by the end of March 2005.

MoT opened in 1995 as an extension of the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum from which it inherited the bulk of its collection. Many of the unvalued works were donations from artists. The Metropolitan Art Museum, which opened in 1926, had no policy of purchasing works until 1975.

According to Yusuke Minami, a curator at MoT, the lack of valuation has not been an issue for the museum. “If City Hall says it’s a problem, then the problem exists,” he says. “Even if we had noticed this situation ourselves five years ago we wouldn’t have done anything about it. We don’t have the budget.” According to Minami the question of a work’s value only arises if it is loaned to another museum, at which point a valuation is made for insurance purposes. He says a full-scale valuation of all 1,400 works will be time-consuming and expensive. Once the works have been assessed by museum staff, outside experts will have to be brought in to value them.

The museum’s financial situation is a more pressing issue. Between 1988 and 1996 the museum had a purchasing fund which enabled it to buy new works, 534 in total.

For the last three years, however, the purchasing budget has been reduced to zero and the museum now only acquires new works through donations.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 141 November 2003