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Opening reception, “Collecting Stories,” The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University (photo thanks to the Slow Muse website).

The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis recently kicked off its 50th anniversary celebration with an exhibition called “Art at the Origin: The Early 1960s,” an event that a few years ago seemed to have been cut off at the neck with the announcement by then president Jehuda Reinharz that the museum would be closed and the collection sold in order to keep its host institution financially afloat. The exhibition highlights paintings acquired by founding director Sam Hunter, all of them new at the time—by artists such as Johns and Rauschenberg, Louis, Kelly, Warhol, and Lichtenstein—paintings that effectively, and in some cases controversially, identified the Rose with the art of our time. That identity persists into the present and is widely appreciated, as evidenced by “Collecting Stories,” the second part of the current exhibition, which is displayed in the museum’s spacious Lois Foster Gallery and consists of acquisitions by subsequent Rose directors during the past four decades, many of them by artists who, loud and clear, voiced their support for the Rose during the bleak months of its threatened demise.


Carl Belz
Left Bank Art Blog


Bertha and Edward Rose break ground on the museum in 1960

Like Lazarus rising from the dead, the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University will reopen this week (26-27 October) after a four-month renovation with two celebrations that university president Frederick Lawrence says are heavy with significance for the museum’s future.

“The fact that we are having the reopenings during the fall board of trustees meeting is designed to raise the profile of the Rose in the university community,” he says. It was these same trustees, mostly, who in January 2009 voted to sell the Rose’s famed collection of modern and contemporary art to keep the university from shrinking drastically after the 2008 markets’ crash.

Since then, the Rose has been in limbo. Its supporters successfully sued to block the sale, reaching a settlement this June. But former director Michael Rush, who helped foment the opposition, left when his contract expired in the spring of 2009, and has never been replaced. Instead, Roy Dawes, an artist who joined the Rose staff in 2002 and was once a gallery manager at Boston’s Institute for Contemporary Art, has led it as “director of museum operations”. Some exhibitions had to be cancelled, including one for James Rosenquist, who blamed a fire in his studio for his withdrawal, but also said he didn’t want to have to deal with the controversy.

Rosenquist is now part of the 26 October re-opening, which kicks off a series of events to mark the Rose’s 50th anniversary. On 27 October, there is also a public reception and viewing.


Judith H. Dobrzynski
The Art Newspaper

Here’s a turnabout: Brandeis University, which set off a storm two years ago when trustees tried to sell art from the Rose Art Museum’s collection, now plans to renovate the museum, rather than destroy it.

Things are not so dire as they once seemed…

The university has posted a press release, dated Mar. 10, on its website, but the fact just came to my attention. The renovations are scheduled to take this place in the original building this summer, in preparation for the museum’s 50th anniversary next fall. The art will start coming down in April, although the newer wing will remain open, with a new access point, through mid-June.


Judith H. Dobrzynski
Real Clear Arts

“The Stowaway Peers Out at the Speed of Light,’’ one of the large paintings by James Rosenquist. (James Rosenquist/Licensed By Vaga)

Three artists whose work was to be featured in a September show at the Rose Art Museum are pulling out until Brandeis University makes a legally binding promise to preserve the campus museum’s valuable permanent collection.

Bill Viola, a renowned video artist, and painters April Gornik and Eric Fischl have postponed the show “Atmospheric Conditions’’ until Brandeis administrators sign an agreement not to sell art from the collection, according to Gornik.

It’s the latest public setback for the Rose, which has been trying to recover since Brandeis announced plans last year to close the museum and sell artworks to help solve a universitywide money crunch. After a backlash from artists, national museum leaders, and donors, Brandeis pledged to hold off on any sales, and the university said last May that it would work with Sotheby’s auction house to try to raise money by loaning out artworks.


Geoff Edgers
Boston Globe

(Rose Art Museum/Brandeis University)

If you read the papers on Friday morning, before getting away for Memorial Day weekend, you know that Brandeis University has a new plan to raise money from the Rose Art Museum collection. The Boston Globe‘s article reveals that the administration has engaged Sotheby’s to explore “options other than sale” of works from the collection, as a way of plugging the university’s budget gap.


Judith H. Dobrzynski
Real Clear Arts

Rose Art Museum (Photo: Los Angeles Times)

Brandeis continues to make progress closing its budget gap, but as I wrote in a short article for The Art Newspaper’s April issue, which is now on newsstands, the Rose Museum continues to be in the administration’s crosshairs.

Brandeis answered my questions in an email, issued by the Press Office…


Judith H. Dobrzynski
Real Clear Arts

Rose Art Museum, former home of the Brandeis art collection (Photo: Guardian)

The debate continues. Here are two different takes on whether colleges should have the right to sell their art collections.

Avoiding the Next Brandeis
Scott Jaschik
Inside Higher Ed

Brandeis Wasn’t Wrong
Rudolph H. Weingartner
Inside Higher Ed

Photo: Boston Globe

Brandeis University has agreed not to sell artwork given by three donors who sued to stop it from closing the Rose Art Museum and selling pieces of its collection.

The Waltham school also agreed Tuesday to give the state Attorney General 30 days notice and the chance for review if it decides to sell artwork donated by others.


Boston Herald

Funding crisis … Visitors tour the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, Massachusetts, January 2009. Photograph: Essdras M Suarez/AP

Facing what has been described as a potential $79m (£52.5m) deficit over the next six years, a dwindling endowment and a near-exhausted reserve fund, Brandeis University in Massachusetts announced earlier this year that it had no other choice but to close its prestigious Rose Art Museum and sell the 8,000-piece collection. Prior to releasing the statement, it made a last-ditch effort to solicit funds from donors, but many had lost money in the Madoff Ponzi scheme, and the university came to the conclusion that it was out of options.

Economic hardship or not, this didn’t go down well within the art world. For one, these were not the financial problems of the museum – which is largely self-sufficient – but those of the university. Secondly, the loss would simply be too great. Established in 1961, the museum’s world-renowned collection includes early works by masters such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein. It also has a long history of hosting extremely significant exhibitions, from Joseph Cornell’s solo show at the Rose in 1968 to Dana Schutz’s first solo show in 2006, which ran concurrently with a Matthew Barney exhibition.

Deciding to shut down a museum of such stature and sell off its works is an extreme option. Brandeis should have tapped the Rose’s fundraising expertise instead. After all, internationally recognised art institutions don’t achieve their reputation without the best development staff in the country. Moreover, as a means of protecting valuable public resources, the ethical code of the Association of Art Museum Directors prevents the sale of objects for purposes other than acquisition. The ensuing debate gets complicated very quickly. In response to public criticism, Brandeis now claims the museum will remain open as an educational centre, with studio and exhibition space. University president Jehuda Reinharz went so far as to describe this as a demonstration of the institution’s commitment to the creative and visual arts community. The statement was understandably poorly received; a learning office is not equivalent to a world-class art institution.

Brandeis also created a new panel to explore further options for the future of the Rose, and last week announced the museum would be staffed for the summer, while it continued to look for alternative sources of funding to support the university. But the Rose already has an independent administrative body designed to direct the museum’s future – its board of overseers. And the mere fact that the Rose employs staff now is not evidence of Brandeis’s support: due to a failure to renew contracts as of June the Rose will have no director, no curator, no education director, no administrator, no funding stream and no programme.

If these actions look ugly now, they will only get worse: a statement on the museum’s website insists that the Massachusetts attorney general’s office has insisted the Rose remains open in some capacity, and that it will weigh in should the university attempt to sell the collection. The Rose also now employs a lawyer and is looking for legal documents relative to the trust of the museum. It has all the makings of a long and very messy legal battle. But if the university’s financial situation is as dire as it claims, gambling what money it does have on a court case to legalise the sale of the art collection doesn’t look like a particularly safe bet. It could take years to win – if they win at all.

Paddy Johnson

Brandeis has rehired two of the Rose Art Museum’s five staffers and scheduled a show from the permanent collection, which will open this summer. The Future of the Rose Committee, formed in March, released a six-page report today. (Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)

The committee charged with examining Brandeis University’s controversial decision to change the Rose Art Museum’s mission and sell some of its art issued a vote of confidence for the beleaguered administration and made no push to save director Michael Rush’s job, according to an interim report released today.

The Future of the Rose Committee, formed in March in response to widespread criticism of the university’s plan to turn the museum into a student-based arts center and sell art to make up for budget deficits, praised the administration in the six-page report and expressed hope that Brandeis has “stepped back from the precipice.”

But Rose supporters have disparaged the committee, which is led by philosophy professor Jerry Samet. They say the administration refused to install as members people recommended by Rush and Jonathan Lee, chairman of the museum’s board of overseers.

“It reminds me of something like a Stalinesque show committee,” said Lee, chairman of the Rose’s board of directors. “These are all hand-picked people by the administration. We didn’t get to pick who represents us.”

The university announced in January its intention to transform the museum into an educational art center and sell some of the artwork. The announcement spurred an international uproar and vehement protests. Rush’s contract is up at the end of June and it will not be renewed.

Last week at least 30 professors signed a letter of protest, saying that Rush should be kept in the position.

Lee said he wasn’t surprised by the interim report, issued late yesterday, which largely sets the stage for a continued examination of the Rose and a final report to be issued in the fall. He also questioned the administration and committee’s contention that the Rose remains a viable museum when director Rush’s tenure is set to end in two months.

There isn’t going to be a director or curator,” said Lee. “Nobody is going to lend us a picture for a show and we are not going to in any way be able to put a show together.”

In the report, the committee said the university’s Board of Trustees will decide whether to sell the art. “We assume that whatever decisions the board makes regarding such sales, there will remain a substantial collection of art to be preserved and made available for research, study, and cultivation,” the report states.

Over the next few months, the committee will get input from faculty, students, Rose supporters, Brandeis trustees, and outside specialists before issuing a final report in the fall.

Since announcing it would close the Rose in January, Brandeis has been trying to restore its reputation as a school that values the arts. It hired a local public relations firm and restated its intentions for the Rose. The university still reserves the right to sell artworks, but is examining how to keep the Rose open. While Rush’s contract runs out June 30, Brandeis has rehired two of the Rose’s five staffers and scheduled a show from the museum’s permanent collection to open this summer.

The issue of selling art remains controversial, and Brandeis has been criticized by faculty, students, and museum leaders throughout the country.

Samet could not be reached for comment yesterday. But in a recent interview, he acknowledged that some people doubt the legitimacy of the committee.

“I’ve been told I’m a hamster in a wheel, that the administration knows full well what the future of the Rose is going to be,” he said in a phone interview last month.

But he doesn’t believe that. He said he thinks the administration hasn’t decided what to do with the Rose. He said he also wants to better understand the implications of selling artworks.

“Is it something like what the NCAA does when there’s a recruiting violation – a limited punishment for a period of time? Or is it like being on some blacklist forever and off the grid and shunned? I don’t know which it is.”

Geoff Edgers
Boston Globe