The Boston Globe reported that the Rose Art Museum, run by Brandeis Univ., is going to sell its collection. The report was met with a huge backlash, especially among alums, and students and residents of the greater Boston community. My first thought was: the bastards! My second thought: I wonder if I could afford one of the pieces? (Okay, now you can hurl stones at me)
Brandeis’ decision was surprising and bold because in the professional art community, selling one’s art for immediate cash is extremely frowned upon– even if it is one or two pieces. Hopefully, this announcement will fuel people to support the museum and find ways to finance it. A recent example is the LA MOCA– not only was it able to muster popular support, it even got Eli Broad to fund it (making Broad perhaps the biggest figure in the West Coast arts scene). Already, a number of Facebook groups have sprouted up to support the Rose.
That said, I really want to criticize the Rose Art Museum for not promoting its collection enough to the public. It’s a shame that many university art museums don’t do so much PR despite their fine collections. I scour exhibition listings all the time and I don’t recall reading about the museum ever– and it has a collection that is “particularly strong in American art of the 1960s and 1970s” which includes works by Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol…!
I don’t think we should be blaming Madoff for this (my friend Lexie writes passionately on the subject). Any institution that relies heavily on family-based donations should know that gifts are gifts- you accept them with grace, but you shouldn’t expect them year after year. Rose looks like a case of poor risk management.
One compromise could be that the Rose auctions its art under the condition that the owner lets the Rose keep it. The art would remain in the Rose, garnished with a plaque that says “Donated by such and such.” Or maybe some East coast Eli Broad will come along and save it.
In the meantime, I’m going to head out there soon to help savetheroseart.org (created by a Brandeis alum) gather pictures for a 3D rendering of the museum.