Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University to Close

Arts advocates are stunned and saddened by the recent decision taken by Brandeis University's Board of Trustees to close its renowned Rose Art Museum and deaccession the collection of important modern and contemporary artworks. The university argues that, with both tuition revenues and its endowment hard hit by the current economic downturn, the museum is being sacrificed in order to preserve more important programs. They claim that "the museum decision will not alter the university’s commitment to the arts and the teaching of the arts." It is difficult to see how this could possibly be the case.

In Brandeis' own words, "The Rose Art Museum [...] houses what is widely recognized as the finest collection of modern and contemporary art in New England." A raft of contradictory statements have been made in the press by Brandeis President Yehuda Reinharz, so that it's not clear whether Brandeis plans to deaccession and auction the entirety of the Rose's collection or only some works. Either way, the institution will be closed and what might remain of its collection will no longer be made available to the public in whose trust the university is held.

Deaccessioning museum collections is a controversial practice in the best of times. Works held for public benefit, at institutions mandated to serve that interest, are subject to specific conditions of their care and ownership. This is especially the case for artworks that have been donated to a museum, because the donor has expressly given his or her gift in the interest of supporting public access to the works. Deaccessions are always problematic for these reasons - but for a university to turn to its museum collection for ready cash in an economic crisis is reaching a new low. The precedent this action sets is abysmal, and indicates just how little regard Brandeis' trustees have for the university's arts program.

It is an unfortunate reminder of how little value the curators, collectors and patrons, who have supported and nurtured the Rose Art Museum and so many others, are afforded in our society. When arts are among the hardest hit sectors of our economy in these troubled times, curators among the first cut when arts institutions fall on difficult circumstances, and venerable arts institutions closed to address short-term budget gaps, we art lovers should be ashamed and angered by this course of events.

Excellent coverage of the Rose Art Museum decision can be found here:
Art Fag City
Modern Art Notes
Artworld Salon

2 comments:

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Jofre Oliveras said...

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