Brandeis University to Close Rose Art Museum and Sell Off Its Collection




“The Rose Art Museum on the Brandeis campus houses what is widely recognized as the finest collection of modern and contemporary art in New England. With more than 6,000 objects — paintings, sculptures, works on paper and new media — the Rose collection has particular strengths in American Modernism, American Social Realism, post-War American, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Surrealism and Photorealism. Recent acquisitions include works by Nam June Paik, Anri Sala, William Kentridge, Thomas Demand and Matthew Barney. These names comprise a virtual “who’s who” of art since the 1960s. With its mission to “engage its communities in the experience of modern and contemporary art,” the Rose maintains an active exhibition program, presenting new art while embracing its foundation in historical modern art.” (excerpted from the museum’s web site)


In a move to correct its current operating deficit and shore up its lagging endowment, Brandeis University’s board of trustees recently voted unanimously to close the Rose Art Museum and sell off its collection of art.

A few quick thoughts come to mind:

1. Stop treating your museum collection like an ATM machine. Art is not cash.
2. Art is a critical component of a liberal arts education. Your museum is as important as your library.
3. Why not temporarily shutter the university’s athletic programs and facilities instead? Are these critically important to the university’s education mission?
4. Most of the works in your collection were donated. As an alternative, why not return them back to the artists who toiled away –- mainly in poverty — to make them.  They should benefit the most from their work’s appreciation in value.


Recent News Articles

Brandeis to sell school’s art collection, by Geoff Edgers and Peter Schworm
The Boston Globe, January 26, 2009

Brandeis to Sell All of Its Art
Inside Higher Ed, January 27, 2009

Outcry Over a Plan to Sell Museum’s Holdings, by Randy Kennedy and Carol Vogel
New York Times, January 27, 2009

Museum backers seek halt to selloff, Say art should stay at Brandeis, by Geoff Edgers
The Boston Globe, January 28, 2009

Hawk this gem? Unconscionable, by Sebastian Smee
The Boston Globe, January 28, 2009

Brandeis may keep art, says president, Reaffirms need to close museum, by Geoff Edgers
The Boston Globe, January 29, 2009

The Rape of the Rose, by David Bonetti
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 29, 2009

Brandeis on the Brink, by Judith H. Dobrzynski
The Daily Beast, January 30, 2009

In the Closing of Brandeis Museum, a Stark Statement of Priorities, by Roberta Smith
The New York Times, February 1, 2009

Museum director assails Brandeis’ plans
The Boston Globe, February 2, 2009

Is the University’s Museum Just a Rose to Be Plucked?, by Daniel Grant
Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2009

Audio Interview with Brandeis University President Jehuda Reinharz, by Tracy Jan
The Boston Globe, February 4, 2009 

Museum Rescue Sought, by Carol Vogel and Randy Kennedy
The New York Times, February 5, 2009

Letter: Brandeis president apologizes for handling of museum issue, by Geoff Edgers
The Boston Globe, February 5, 2009 


A Letter from the College Art Association (published on January 29, 2009)

The College Art Association (CAA) was shocked and dismayed to learn of the decision by BrandeisUniversity to close the Rose Art Museum and sell its entire art collection for operating revenue.

CAA supports the Codes of Ethics of the American Association of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors, which clearly state that works of art in museum collections are held as a public trust and that any proceeds of sales must only support the acquisition of new works. However, perceiving an entire art collection as a disposable financial asset and then dismantling that collection wholesale to cover other university expenses is deeply troubling for all college and university collections.

The closing of the museum at Brandeis will be devastating to the academic community, not only affecting our colleagues at the museum and students and faculty in the Department of Fine Arts, which offers programs in both studio art and art history, but also depriving the entire arts-loving public in New England and around the world. The teaching of art and art history in higher education is untenable without the direct study of physical works of art, and it appears the Brandeis Board of Trustees has disregarded the kind of scholarship and creativity that have been the hallmark of CAA members for nearly one hundred years.

According to news reports, neither Brandeis University nor the Rose Art Museum is on the brink of economic collapse, nor are they unable to maintain the collections. Given that no clear explanation has been offered on the school’s financial exigencies, the closure of the Rose Art Museumand the sale of its collection appear to be in violation of professional museum standards and of academic transparency and due process; the decision also demonstrates a lack of academic responsibility and fiduciary foresight. We appeal to the Trustees of Brandeis to revisit and reverse their decision.

Paul B. Jaskot
Executive Director, College Art Association
Professor of Art History
Department of the History of Art and Architecture
DePaul University

Linda Downs
President, College Art Association


New Facebook Group
Save the Rose Art Museum


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