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The Spectre of the Rose: Brandeis Flip-Flops Again

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In its written statement Monday announcing its plan to close the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University said that “the university will publicly sell the art collection.”

Let me repeat that: It said “THE art collection.” It didn’t say “SOME of the art collection.”

But now Fred Thys of Boston’s public radio station, WBUR, reports that Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz informed him that the university “does not intend to sell the entire art collection, just some of the
works. He promises that the university will check the donors’ wishes
before selling. And, he says Brandeis hopes to avoid dumping these
works onto the art market at a time when prices are depressed. It
intends, rather, to take its time selling them piecemeal at the best
prices it can get.”

All of this backpedaling (bringing to mind other misstatements) appears to be a direct reaction to criticisms that have been heaped on Brandeis’ misconceived plan by artworld luminaries, Brandeis donors, some faculty members, and the university’s own museum director and staff, who were never accorded the courtesy of being warned, let alone consulted, about the impending Rose Rout. Clearly, the university was hellbent on selling, and didn’t want to be confused by such professional concerns as ethical standards, legally enforceable donor restrictions, or the plummeting market for contemporary art—all of which might have come up in discussions with the museum’s director, Michael Rush, if only he’d been asked.

Here’s more from the journalist who owns this story, Geoff Edgers of the Boston Globe, who reports on the negative reaction to the plan from many quarters. (Once Geoff’s astute reporting singlehandedly rescues the Rose, I’m sure he’ll succeed in his mission to reunite the Kinks.) The Globe has added its own negative reaction, in the form of a strong opinion piece by its art critic, Sebastian Smee.

Also weighing in is NPR, which interviewed David Genser, a collector who had recently donated a Rosenquist print. More importantly, Time magazine’s Looking Around blog features an illuminating Q&A between art critic Richard Lacayo and the Rose’s director.

My guess is that Rush, who’s supposed to have his director’s job until June 30, may be pushed to an early exit if he doesn’t stop mouthing off against the university’s administration. My second guess is that he doesn’t much care: He wants this story to be told.

Now I’m going offline for a few hours, in order to complete an application for an award that I’m not going to get. As an advance consolation prize, I hope that some of you will finally respond to my CultureGrrl Ad Drive. While I’m happy to have all that “Jazz” in my righthand column, the Grrl cannot live on one ad alone. As you well know, I’ve got no lack of vanity, but I’m loath to engage much longer in a vanity project—a labor-of-love that’s respected but unremunerative.

If you want me to keep hurling my fastballs, you gotta step up to the plate.

It’s “The Spectre of the Rosenbaum”:

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an ArtsJournal blog