Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"A junkie pawning his wedding ring"

You do the math.

Brandeis University has a projected annual budget shortfall of $10 million and is using that to justify the complete liquidation of the collection at its highly esteemed Rose Art Museum.

Their so-called Permanent Collection, on the other hand, is described as such:
The permanent collection of The Rose Art Museum is internationally recognized for its quality and comprehensiveness. The collection numbers over 8,000 objects and is particularly strong in American art of the 1960s and 1970s. In line with seminal acquisitions of works by Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Morris Louis, James Rosenquist, and Andy Warhol in the ’60s, The Rose, through the establishment of the Rose and Hays Purchase Funds, continues its committment to acquiring art produced in our time. Recent acquisitions have included works by Matthew Barney, Helen Frankenthaler, Nan Goldin, Alfredo Jaar, Donald Judd, Annette Lemieux, Robert Mangold, Judy Pfaff, Anri Sala, Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, and Jackie Windsor. [emphasis mine]
Artnet reports:
Among the pieces that might be particularly coveted by the art market, according to those familiar with the collection, are Robert Raushenberg’s Second Time Painting, and Andy Warhol’s early-career Saturday Night Disaster.
In another article, Artnet notes that unbridled Warholmania seems to be over, but should Saturday Night Disaster sell for even a third of what Warhol's other seminal Death and Disaster series painting, Green Car Crash, did in May 2007 ($71.7 million), that should cover the budget shortfall for a few years at least, giving them time to find some other means of raising the money, no?

So what is really going on at Brandeis? No one really seems to know, but as Artnet notes, folks are wondering:
One auction-house insider contacted by Artnet Magazine noted that just one of the better works from the Rose collection might fill the $10-million budget gap, adding, "There must be a bigger picture there" -- a sentiment shared by many. While Brandeis has an immediate funding short-fall, and is looking for gap-fillers to get it through the recession, officials note that the process of selling the art "could take up to about a couple of years, minimum." There is no precedent for selling off a university collection of this size.
Having just seen 8 years of intentional over-reaching to cover your true, still highly controversial, objective by the Bush Administration, I do have to note that I wonder whether the Trustees are only saying they're closing the museum, knowing that it would cause such a stir that then, in response to the outcry, they could agree to scale back and say they would only deaccession a few lucrative pieces. Everyone would then be relieved (rather than if they started with a deaccession proposal and had to deal with the outrage that would stir).

Sad to say, I kind of hope that's the case, but it's merely that...a hope. Either way, the outcry from fans of the Rose has been immediate and is growing. There's even now a Facebook group to
Save the Rose Museum with this appeal:
Many members have already expressed reasonable and creative alternatives to selling off the museum. Please make use of the discussion boards so we can all take part in a healthy dialogue about how to best advocate for the Rose's salvation.

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Blogger David said...

That's exactly the right title for this post. It's outrageous. The Rose is a jewel. They have a wonderful temporary exhibition space too, with three interesting shows opening this month. This is the lifeblood of a contemporary museum - a great collection and a good contemporary program. I wonder if the Bernie Madoff affair is part of the back story - one major doner was described as taking a hit with Madoff. We heard of one wealthy Jewish couple who lost everything and had to move in with their children, and other stories like this could have been enough to cause panic, but a 10 mil. shortfall?

1/28/2009 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

Full coverage here... (scroll down)
There's a sit down protest on Thursday and a petition to sign...

Funny, my only thought is that the ICA is hoping to start a permanent collection in its new location...

1/28/2009 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I should note that the title (which I put in quotation marks) is a quote from an editorial in The Justice, a student paper at Brandeis. It is part of the article I linked to.

The actual article, by Justice Staff Writer Daniel Orkin is here.

1/28/2009 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger bob said...

I also had the thought that this is a form of blackmail, or hostage taking. But if it is, I think that they have badly miscalculated. One can only hope that the MA AG's office crushes it.

1/28/2009 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

er...html is my friend.

Orkin's article is here.

1/28/2009 09:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

One of the things I've learned from academia is that some people are so crazy that you can't even depend on them to act in their own interest. This, however, is so inexplicable as to defy the normal allowances for university nuttiness. I too was wondering if it was an ill-conceived PR gambit. Even that's a touch illogical, but no other explanation, least of all the official ones, make a lick of sense.

1/28/2009 10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

I visited once. It's off bound but really a fantastic place.

This will be a cultural disaster for the communities living around the University.

I would love if ICA bought major parts, it would be more easy for travellers. But I'm aware of the problematic of centralization.
If most of the art is owned by major cities, there should be programs for some of it to travel
in remote places (hence, the Rose Museum should remain open).

Cedric Casp

1/28/2009 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger ruben said...

What a shame!
During my college days in Boston, the Rose was one of my favorite destinations.

There must me a larger situation at hand. One single Warhol work can cover the supossed 10 million deficit.

1/28/2009 10:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Oriane said...

Not to belittle the situation at the Rose Museum, and slightly off topic, but I always found the phrase "permanent collection" a little high-falutin. The permanence of a collection (or an object's presence in a collection) is like the promise in a marriage vow to be together "til death do us part". It's permanent until it isn't.

When civilization has been devastated by nuclear war, etc., all that will be left are cockroaches and the Permanent Collection of __________.

1/28/2009 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

I think it was hit hard by the Madoff scandal... that was a tipping point or they never saw it coming.

1/28/2009 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger Kirstin said...

As someone who rents a painting studio in Waltham I'm extremely saddened by the news... I feel the Rose Art Museum put Waltham on the map. What a loss for the local art community. The shows brought in were consistently stellar.

1/28/2009 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

More info about this story on Tyler Green's blog: Modern Art Notes...

1/28/2009 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger Christopher/Mark said...

This story has received so much coverage in all the media, including the big New York Times piece today. I am just wondering if by announcing the closure and sale of the collection, as a fait accompli, somebody at Brandeis realized that the story would be so big that a rescue of some sort would be encouraged. Had there been a story about how Brandeis was having a finacial crisis (like so many others) and might consider selling things from the Rose, the story would have gone almost nowhere. Somebody could be being very smart here....

1/28/2009 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

I doubt it's a ploy. I think they just don't understand what they have. The trustees are seeing the Rose as exactly what the title of this post calls it - a jewel, a bauble, a luxury, something to be hocked in tough times. As for the ICA taking the collection over, practicalities and financing aside, they are in different universes. I could see them bidding for a few things for there collection.

1/28/2009 01:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bradeis University practices The Shock Doctrine! The legacy of the Bush/Cheney years will be with us for some time to come.

---ondine nyc

1/28/2009 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

More like "smash and grab"

1/28/2009 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

I’m with Oriane on this one. There’s nothing more naïve that thinking just because some institution calls something a “permanent collect” that it’s art nirvana. Look at the mess the Barnes Collection ended up in.

Like the Bernie Madoff scam, I expect other shoes to drop. I hate to pull away anybody’s “hate crutch” but, you can’t spend the rest of your lives blaming all your problems on Bush/Cheney.

1/28/2009 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Yale would never do this.
Because Yale has gobs o money it din;t invest in Ponzi schemes.

Basically you go with the smart people because smart is a brand.

Brandeis is eroding it's brand even by courting a PR buzz.

One ownders what the vote was like, is there somewhere we can read the minutes?

But in any case, selling now is like cashing in your 401k early. Unless you are going to spend the money immediately on heat and rent....

No, it must be some kind of appeal to the alumni for more funds.

I always throw those in the trash - times are tough all 'round bro.

1/28/2009 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

It's a very bad moment in the academic crisis of the Humanities and the Arts. In Tyler Green's interview the director made the important point that it was never about the audience, they are one of the rare institutions left that does not have to pander. I don't know what the shape of Brandeis is like, but at some point university administrations, corporate endowments and the bottom line became more and more important than anything so abstract and useless as "knowledge."

1/28/2009 05:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

Judging from the Tyler Green interview, the Rose Museum seems in shape enough financially. Could they be able to find or build a place of their own and pursue their mandate? I almost find more important that they pursue giving "first museum exhibitions" to future great artists than that they loose a collection that apparently was never really theirs.

As for Brandeis, I hope they don't have a Fine Arts program. That would be stupid after closing their own gallery.

Cedric Casp

1/28/2009 07:25:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Wellllllll and so, the increasingly professionalized academic slough.

It's ridiculous.

You cant prentend to be highbrow and then sacrifice your ideals at the altar of fiscal responsibility.

Look at that crappy private museum in California that got rescued at the eleventh or thirteenth hour or whatever.

They threatened to close up shop. But they didn;t threaten to sell the work.

Big difference.

1/28/2009 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

Bargain basement prices for the MFA as well on modern and contemporary art since they are in the midst of a multi-million dollar expansion project in Boston to build a new wing for modern and contemporary art- quel coincidence...

1/28/2009 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Off subject but… Ed you were highly rated on this, "popular NY blogs" survey at mapcidy, check it out here:

1/28/2009 10:57:00 PM  
Blogger jeff f said...

The other thing is that the Rose was in the black. They earned their keep.
This is not over by a long shot.

The Attorney General of Massachusetts will be investigating and would review wills and agreements made between the museum and the estates of donors to determine if selling artworks violated the terms of donations.

The attorney general has approval powers over certain actions of nonprofit institutions in the state.

It's not over yet.

It's a shame that somehow the philistines have taken over this institution.

1/29/2009 02:40:00 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

I agree with Catherine, this seems to be yet another symptom of academia's adaptation of The Corporate Model: the primary goals of most universities have changed radically in the past decade.

It is scary that administrators/board members who have no sense of the true (non-monetary) value of the collection have the power to destroy it.

1/29/2009 07:55:00 AM  
Anonymous tungsten wedding band said...

This report that among the pieces that might be particularly coveted by the art market, according to those familiar with the collection. And base on this article i amaze!

by: rhianne

4/06/2009 08:44:00 PM  

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