Posts Tagged ‘brandeis’

“Plundering” the Rose Art Museum

March 17, 2009

 The NY Times reports that the name benefactors of Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum have spoken out against the planned “repositioning” of the museum and called such an action a “plundering” of the collection. The University’s trustees have been under fire since January when it voted to sell off the museum’s significant art collection to raise revenue for the University’s financial shortfall. There has been widespread criticism of the decision.

Meryl Rose, a representative of the Rose family for whom the museum is named, suggested that the damage done to the museum’s reputation would remain even if it is not closed to the public. She asks, “What donor would give a piece of art that might be sold to pay for administrative expenses?

Museum Family Denounces Brandeis

Punishing the Child for the Sins of the Parent; Another Note on the Rose Art Museum

February 2, 2009

When the story of the closing of the Rose Art Museum came out, it initially struck me as rather different from the recent deaccessioning of artwork that has occurred at other museums. It wasn’t just the fact that an entire institution is to be closed, an entire collection dispersed, but the odd thing was that the museum itself is not to blame. From the information available, the museum appears to be a well managed institution that received little if any support from Brandeis University. The Rose is being closed because of the errors, mistakes and bad luck of its parent organization, rather than anything attributable to its own administration. If anything, it appears to be a model educational museum. It is quite a contrast to the recent deaccessionment controversy of the National Academy and the LA MoCA “bailout.”

In the context of the Rose Art Museum, Roberta Smith clearly enuciates these issues in the Times this week. The article sums up the overall situation well and also provides a overview of the museum, its benefactors, the significance of the collection and the effect of the closing upon art students at Brandeis.

In the Closing of Brandeis Museum, a Stark Statement of Priorities

Reference
Brandeis Board of Trustees

Update 2/5/2009:  Carol Vogel and Randy Kennedy report in the Times that efforts to prevent the museum’s closure have begun.

When Museums Sell Art

January 22, 2009

In the past month or so there has been a series of articles in the New York Times about the financial troubles of art museums. Some major catastrophes seem to have been averted for the immediate future, but the primary issue of concern is the practice of deaccessioning artwork. This is nothing new, but considering the times, it is likely to become more common. In the practice of deaccessioning, artwork may sold to ease financial difficulties or it may be sold for the purpose or raising funds to purchase other artworks. Deaccessioning is a controversial practice on several angles, particularly when works of art are sold for a reason less than the life-or-death of the institution.

When works are sold for the purpose of purchasing another–in theory, an artwork with a higher culture value–the decision is subject to the perspective of the times. How many times has an object been disregarding in one period, when its style is unfashionable, but is later understood to be particularly significant? It is something that happens with a certain frequency in the history of art.

When works are sold for the purpose of raising funds it brings into question the function of the museum. Museums, for good or bad, are increasingly more like commercial or corporate entities. American museums, unlike those in some other countries, typically charge a substantial entrance fee. Prominent museums may have trusts and other sources of relatively stable income. Of course, museums are under pressure from both external and internal factors to draw more visitors, and hence, ticket fees. Is the proper purpose of the museum, then, a source of revenue or that of a permanent guardian of cultural patrimony?

Regardless, there are several reason why anyone who cares about art and cultural heritage should be concerned about this practice. One, if the artwork is sold into a private collection, the public, in all likelihood loses access to it. Art is culture and it belongs to the world, particularly when it has reached the stature of a museum piece. It should be available for public access, even if it is not always on view.

Two, museums sometimes acquire work by donation. When artwork is donated to a museum, the probable intent was something akin to a public gift. (Okay, some people do it for the tax benefit). Some museum collections are enhanced by gifts given by the artist personally (who can only claim the actual cost of the materials for tax purposes). Artists may be less likely to donate their work, especially to smaller regional institutions, if the museum may later sell it off. Some donors, collectors or artists, may be able to circumvent to possibility of a later sale of the work by making a permanent loan, rather than a donation. Of course there is likely to be no tax benefit from such a loan.

Third, the deaccessioning of artwork seems to be simply counter to the role that museums are perceived to have in this society. The general belief is that museums hold a charitable position in society and exist for the benefit of society. Museums have a particularly important position in maintaining the cultural patrimony of the world. When bits are sold off, the institution itself is diminished…and historical communication of art becomes increasingly available only for the few.

References:

Museums Look Inward for Their Own Bailouts

Whose Rules Are These, Anyway?

Branded a Pariah, the National Academy Is Struggling to Survive

National Academy Sells Two Hudson River School Paintings to Bolster It’s Finances

UPDATE:  January 27, 2009

The NY Times reports that Brandeis University will close the Rose Museum and sell the art collection.  The purpose?  To improve the university’s financial situation.  The museum contains numerous contemporary works including those of Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, Mathew Barney, Cindy Sherman, Helen Frankenthaler, Kiki Smith and others.

Read the Times article here.

The Rose Art Museum

At the time of this posting, neither the university or the museum has published a statement on its website about the closing.