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Brandeis Names New President (who endorses Rent-a-Rose)

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Frederick Lawrence, Brandeis University’s next president

Brandeis University last week announced the selection of its new president, Frederick Lawrence, George Washington University’s Law School dean, who will succeed Jehuda  Reinharz on Jan. 1.

Both the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe immediately solicited Lawrence’s views on the university’s Rent-a-Rose plan—a scheme to monetize the Rose Art Museum’s collection by renting it out to those willing to pay sums significant enough to help bail the university out of its serious financial difficulties. Brandeis’ Bernie Madoff-related shortfalls had previously led to its shocking decision (reconsidered, after widespread condemnation) to close the museum and sell its collection.

Lawrence told the Boston newspapers that he would “wait and see what comes of that effort” (to rent the works from the collection) and that he “remains hopeful we can find an opportunity to bring everyone together
on this and find a solution.”

Since these comments seemed somewhat ambiguous, I asked Brandeis spokesman Andrew Gully to clarify whether Lawrence supports the loans-for-cash initiative, or whether he might reevaluate that plan once he takes office.

Gully replied:

He supports this effort now and when he takes office on Jan. 1, 2011.

The university’s spokesman also told me that in mid-June Brandeis signed its expected contract with Sotheby’s, which allows the auction house to broker the Rose rentals. Gully would not say anything about how much money is being sought or what kinds of borrowers (i.e., museums, nonprofits, corporations, individuals) are contemplated, other than referring me to comments made by Lisa Dennison, co-chairman of Sotheby’s North and South America, for Geoff Edgersinitial report on the rental scheme, published by the Globe on May 28:

Dennison…said the Brandeis arrangement is more likely to
be modeled on loans made to other museums. “We’re not looking for Joe
Smith to start renting individual pictures,” she said.

In this context, and in the absence of any public statement by the Association of Art Museum Directors regarding the Rose’s rental gambit, let’s revisit AAMD’s Professional Practices in Art Museums (p. 10):

Museums rely on one another for loans to exhibitions. Thus, a spirit of cooperation and collegiality that recognizes this interdependence should inform all decisions relative to such loans and the setting of charges and fees.

In any decision about a proposed loan from the collection, the intellectual merit and educational benefits, as well as the protection of the work of art, must be the primary considerations, rather than possible financial gain [emphasis added]. The director [which the Rose has lacked for more than a year] recommends loans and advises the board about the relevant professional issues, but the ultimate responsibility for decisions on loan requests rests with the board.

While it’s figuring out which works to rent (presumably, those of greatest value) and to whom, the Rose is closed for the summer. Perhaps another sympton of its disarray is its recent postponement of the planned fall exhibition, Atmospheric Conditions (works by Bill Viola, Eric Fischl and April Gornik), due to “scheduling conflicts,” as explained on the museum’s website.

Instead, beginning in late September, we’ll have Rosenquist at the Rose:

Celebrated pop artist James Rosenquist will exhibit several of his
exuberant billboard-sized murals in the Foster Gallery, with an
accompanying display of source material and selections of the artist’s
work from the Rose Art Museum’s esteemed [especially for its rental value] collection. Rosenquist’s long
history with the Rose gives this exhibition special weight as the Museum
moves forward into an exciting new year of arts and programming [not to mention monetizing].

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Rosenquist, “The Stowaway Peers Out at the Speed of Light,” 2000

Speaking of monetizing, my warm thanks go out to CultureGrrl Donor 139 from NYC. Maybe we’re on a roll here: Who’d like to be my donor-of-the-day? There’s a new CultureGrrl pocket video camera that I’ve got my eye on. My current device, acquired before I knew whether I would enjoy producing CultureGrrl Videos, was about the cheapest (and most rudimentary) that I could find.

Meanwhile, I’ve got two new clips that I think you’ll enjoy, COMING SOON.

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