Brandeis University — Rose Art Museum

Here’s something to think about on this snowy evening…

The following two documents relate to the recent (January 26, 2009) decision of Brandeis University to close its highly regarded university museum and sell its collection of major 20th-c. and contemporary art. The first is a letter from the university president, Dr. Reinharz, to the university community. The second document is a news release from the university.

The documents are making their way around the museum world among museum professionals and other concerned members of the art world.

What do you think about this? Should museums be allowed to deaccession works from the permanent collection?

What if the works end up in private collections, seldom to be seen by the public?

How much money will the works bring to the university?  Right now, the market is down and there is a lot of modern and contemporary art on the auction block. If the market is flooded, the works will likely bring less than they would have last year. Does this/Should this make a difference?

Are there ethical issues here? The museum was founded and has been supported by private funds. What responsibility does the university have to its patrons?

What if the National Gallery of Art starts to sell off its collection? (Not that it will…but think about it.)

Check out the university’s website and that of the Rose Art Museum… It’s a spectacular museum with an exciting and important permanent collection.

This is a sad day for museums and the art world.

DOCUMENT 1:

From: [Jehuda Reinharz, President of Brandeis University]

Subject: Important Message Regarding the Rose Art Museum

To: [the Brandeis community]

Date: Monday, January 26, 2009, 7:20 PM

January 26, 2009

Dear Friends,

The global financial crisis and deepening national economic recession require Brandeis to formulate and execute decisive plans that will position the university to emerge stronger for the benefit of our students. To this end, our response to the crisis is to focus and sustain our core academic mission. I am writing to tell you that the Board of Trustees met today and voted to close the Rose Art Museum. The decision was difficult and was reached after a painstaking assessment of the university’s need to mobilize for the future and initiate a strategy to replenish our financial assets. The Rose has been a marvelous addition to the Fine Arts program, and we are grateful to everyone who expressed their love for art and admiration for Brandeis’s academic mission by helping to create, build, and support the museum. Choosing between and among important and valued university assets is terrible, but our priority in the face of hard choices will always be the university’s core teaching and research mission. Today’s decision will set in motion a long-term plan to sell facility to a teaching, studio, and gallery space for undergraduate and graduate students and faculty. The university’s official public statement can be found below. I will be writing to the community shortly to update you on other initiatives currently under discussion by the faculty and the administration.

Sincerely,

Jehuda Reinharz

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DOCUMENT 2:

BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY NEWS

With vote to close art museum, Brandeis renews ‘unwavering’ commitment to students, research and academic mission WALTHAM, Mass., Jan. 26, 2009 —

Brandeis University’s Board of Trustees today voted unanimously to close the Rose Art Museum as part of a campus-wide effort to preserve the university’s educational mission in the face of the historic economic recession and financial crisis. Board members stressed that the museum decision will not alter the university’s commitment to the arts and the teaching of the arts.

“These are extraordinary times,” said Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz. “We cannot control or fix the nation’s economic problems. We can only do what we have been entrusted to do — act responsibly with the best interests of our students and their futures foremost in mind.”

Opened in 1961, the Rose Art Museum houses a large amount of modern and contemporary art. Plans call for the museum to close in late summer 2009, and transition into a fine-arts teaching center with studio space and an exhibition gallery. After necessary legal approvals and working with a top auction house, the university will publicly sell the art collection. Proceeds from the sale will be reinvested in the university to combat the far-reaching effects of the economic crisis, and fortify the university’s position for the future.

Brandeis officials said the decision to close the museum is part of an emerging new vision for the university aimed at streamlining it for the future while bolstering its focus on undergraduates, the liberal arts and research. In recent months, the university has been reviewing expenditures and discussing new initiatives to meet the serious economic challenges. Belt tightening has already brought substantial decreases in administrative budgets.

In a special session on Jan. 22, the Brandeis faculty voted unanimously to support the president and trustees as they combat the effects of the economic recession and work to make Brandeis stronger academically and fiscally for the 21st century. Faculty members agreed that the university should maintain the strengths that have helped position Brandeis among the nation’s top liberal arts and research institutions. Brandeis officials have estimated that the economic recession will continue to adversely affect operating expenses, performance of the endowment, financial aid and scholarships. At Brandeis and schools around the country, fundraising revenue is declining and families are looking for more financial aid to help them cope with their own unenviable economic straits. Reinharz said the Rose Museum decision was very difficult. But he characterized it as an important step in the ongoing resource management and allocation process on the school’s campus. “I am satisfied that our commitment is unwavering; that someday we will look back and say that when the quality of education and student services was at stake, we made hard choices so that Brandeis could emerge even stronger.” –END OF STORY–

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