Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

What is Art worth? Money or Knowledge or Inspiration? Brandeis will find out.

The announcement that Brandeis University was going to close the Rose Art Museum and sell off part or most of the collection, a collection that includes one of the best representations of America in the 1950s and 1960s – a time when the center of art theory and practice moved from Europe to the USA, caused a ruffle in my house. My artist wife is very fond of the Rose, was just up there in the past year, and, frankly, couldn’t believe the University’s decision.

It is clear that some of Brandeis’ major donors have been affected  by the Madoff Scandal and will not likely be able to replace the 23% drop in Brandeis’ endowment with cash donations. But to sell off the art, which probably retains its value in the face of all the current economic shenanigans, only provides money to the institution. It takes away academic sources of art history. It takes away a single location for the inspiration of future artists.

President Jehuda Reinharz could make cuts across the board of all departments and use the Museum’s collection as a source for income in academic ways with other institutions: rental of individual pieces for short terms, foundations for books and catalogs to be sold, as backups for loans perhaps.

This will wipe out a museum, split up a collection (how many pieces will go overseas and into private hands, no longer available to American students?) and make a major University a minor player in the Fine Arts.

This should be rethought.

Under The LobsterScope


  1. fogiv

    That’s bad news.  Has a support/advocacy group stepped up to help solicit donations or throw fundraisers?  Not that such things would be all that successful in today’s financial climate.  Sounds like the shortfall is significant.

  2. louisprandtl

    As Director of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University I want to express to you, the Rose Art Museum community, my shock and horror at the university’s decision to close the Rose Art Museum. As a member of the Brandeis community I feel shame and deep regret over the shortsightedness of this decision. The Rose’s cherished collection, known from participation in countless exhibitions around the world, now stands on the verge of dissemination into private hands. I want you to know from me some basic facts: neither the Rose staff nor the Rose Board of Overseers had any knowledge of this decision. Indeed, we were never consulted at all. We were informed one hour before the press release went out. Do not be fooled into thinking that the Rose is being closed because it is a financial drain on the university. It isn’t. While acknowledging the profound financial challenges every institution is facing, the Rose, a fundamentally self sustaining entity within Brandeis, is in relatively good financial health. The Rose is being closed due to the University’s desire to sell the cherished collection. Period.

    Art cannot be treated as a liquid asset. Seeking a solution to dire financial difficulties by selling precious art that was given (or bought) in the deepest trust between donors and the university (via the museum) is an aberration. History will record this as a desperate action that flies in the face of all intellectual and ethical standards. Brandeis is putting its intellectual capital and very credibility as an institution of higher learning on the auction block. No one wins here. Even the expected buyers of this dearly held art will be purchasing tainted goods marked with the blood of this ill begotten action.

    It is a sad day for Brandeis. The notion that the Rose, with all of its historical significance, could continue to exist in some way, as well intentioned a thought as that might be, is very unrealistic. No one will ever again contribute funds, much less artwork, to this institution; no art work will be lent to it from other institutions; no professional artist or curator will want to be associated with it and those who remain here in the arts will forever be identified with “the institution that closed the Rose Museum and sold its artwork.” My deepest feelings go out to my glorious staff who cannot bear the thought of observing, much less being a part of, the dismantling of this great museum.

    Many forms of protest are currently underway, most especially with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office. Brandeis, a truly inspiring university, built on the foundation of social justice and commitment to the highest pursuit of human understanding and dignity, has temporarily betrayed this vision for supposed short-term gain, which may, in the end, prove unattainable in any case.

    Please know that the outpouring of support as well as rage has been enormous from many corners of the globe. An international chorus of support has formed as we are hearing from thousands of people daily. For this we are deeply grateful. My friends, we must redouble our efforts to maintain our very identities as art museums. Laws that govern us, indeed protect us and our art, must be very clear and not nuanced to such an extent that subtle legalities could jeopardize our very existence and the fundamental obligation and privilege we have to care for our precious charge: our art.

    Michael Rush

    Henry and Lois Foster Director

    Rose Art Museum

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