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More Than 50 Rose Family Members Condemn Vitiation of Brandeis’ Rose Art Museum

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Michael Rush taking CBS-TV’s Martha Teichner on a tour of the Rose Art Museum (aired today)

This just in from the kin of Edward and Bertha Rose, founders of Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum:

More than 50 members of the Rose family have come together to condemn the actions of the current Brandeis administration in closing the Edward and Bertha C. Rose Art Museum and selling the art works in its renowned collection. A statement will be read at [a symposium tomorrow at the museum]. A copy of the statement will be delivered to the office of the president of Brandeis University on Monday.

Tomorrow’s symposium (scroll down) is titled, “Preserving Trust: Art and the Art Museum Amidst Financial Crisis.” You can view it live here (along with the Rose Family’s pronouncement), from 6:30-8 p.m. tomorrow. (The Mar. 2 date you will see on the viewing page refers to the originally scheduled time; it was postponed due to a snowstorm.)

Speaking of “preserving trust,” I wish that the Rose’s director, Michael Rush, who staunchly opposes both deaccessioning and redefining the museum as an “art center,” would stop monetizing the collection by way of his own comments: In today’s CBS-TV Sunday Morning segment, he told correspondent Martha Teichner that “at least 20 works [in the Rose’s collection] are worth tens and tens of millions of dollars” and that the museum’s entire collection, if sold, would fetch $175 million.

I guess that must be the new recession/liquidation price. The Boston Globe‘s Geoff Edgers reported in January that Rush had “estimated the collection’s value could top $350 million.”

Rush should stop second-guessing the market and concentrate on his proper function of touting the collection’s artistic and educational value. He should, on principle, decline to discuss a museum collection’s financial worth (which is not quantified on most institutions’ balance sheets, because collections are not properly regarded as liquid assets). All this million-dollar babble just activates the salivary glands of sale proponents, such as Brandeis trustee Ralph Martin, who said this on today’s CBS report:

We’ve frozen salaries, we have a hiring freeze, we’ve cut expenses. If
one of the compromises you’re prepared to make is we may have to sell
some select works of art, I think most of the community [will] understand that.

It was, unsurprisingly, Rush’s dollar-denominated comments that made the lead in CBS’s online report of today’s segment (which links to CultureGrrl‘s report that first exposed the National Academy’s stealth deaccessions, also discussed by Teichner).

Rush was responsible for the museum’s misguided decision to ask Christie’s to appraise its collection, because (as Rush told Brandeis Magazine two years ago), “I’m confident that, after its real estate, art is the
university’s largest financial asset, and I want everyone to know it.”

I want everyone to forget it.

Regarding the National Academy brouhaha, Teichner reported that “last Wednesday, the National Academy agreed to meet AAMD’s demands.” That’s not exactly how I read the joint statement between the Academy and the Association of Art Museum Directors, which reports that the Academy will not sell two relatively minor works that it had planned to jettison, but falls short of stating that the Academy will never again liquidate works to defray operating expenses or debts. Carmine Branagan, director of the Academy, so far appears to be sticking by her statement to me that when it comes to future art disposals, one should “never say ‘never.'”

For its part, AAMD has not yet agreed to lift its sanctions against its members’ collaborating with the Academy on exhibitions and other projects. This peace process is still a work in progress.

From Teichner, I learned for the first time that the Association of Art Museum Directors boasts an “ethics enforcer,” as she dubbed Bill Eiland, head of professsional issues for AAMD and director of the Georgia Museum of Art. Do the “enforcer’s” perp-catching perks include a shiny badge and billy stick?

If there is actually such a thing as an AAMD ethics cop, I think it’s the person who met with Branagan before the fact in an attempt to head off any desperation deaccessions and was incensed by her disregard of his counsel—the association’s president, Michael Conforti.

an ArtsJournal blog