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More on the Closing of the Rose: Sign the Petition; Stop the Auction UPDATED

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Thumbs down on Brandeis University President Jehuda Reinharz

Forget the Quincy Jones Petition.

If you want to sign an important artworld action document, go to the petition by Concerned Alumni of Brandeis University—In Opposition to the Closing of the Rose Art Museum.

The petition says it all:

The Brandeis University Board of Trustees in a closed meeting and
without any community input decided to sell off the University’s unique
collection of modern art in order to meet a budget shortfall. But there
are other ways to do this. The Rose Art Museum must be preserved.

I got the link to the this from my Exhibitionist blogging buddy who moonlights (just kidding) as ace arts reporter Geoff Edgers of the Boston Globe. Go-get-’em Edgers has a fleshed-out story today on Brandeis University’s woefully wrongheaded plan. He gets extensive comment from the museum’s shell-shocked director, Michael Rush, who says the collection could be worth over $350 million. We don’t even want to know.

Here’s the part of Edgers’ story that makes me see red:

A Brandeis spokesman said that the Massachusetts attorney general’s
office, which oversees donations, has been informed of the move and
will not block it.

Geoff, get that on the record from the AG’s office, with explanation, and then make a Freedom of Information request for whatever documents, if any, Brandeis submitted to that government agency. (I did this for my Wall Street Journal story about the NY Public Library art sales, and, after a struggle, got the goods.) Knowing your style, you’re already on it.

Whatever the AG decides to do (or not), the Rose’s art donors and financial supporters will not stand for this (and could decide to sue, depending on restrictions placed on gifts). The art museum community and leading professional organizations in the field will not stand for this. If AAMD wants to blackball someone, it should blackball any auction house so mercenary as to accept this consignment from hell.

Here’s the “Important Message Regarding the Rose Art Museum” that Brandeis University sent out to its alumni and other friends [forwarded by Cousin Deb, into whose inbox this bombshell landed at 7:46 p.m. last night]:

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 the art collection and convert the
professional art 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 [posted here yesterday on CultureGrrl]. 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
[Brandeis University President]

UPDATE: There is now also a Save the Rose Art website.

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