The Rose Board Wants a Meeting

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The Board of Overseers at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis has just issued a statement. Predictably it condemns the sale. But it also calls on the Brandeis Trustees to revoke their decision and asks for a meeting with them “to find a solution consistent with the continued existence” of the museum.

Will the Trustees agree to meet? They may still be of a mind to just weather the criticism they’ve been taking for the decision and press ahead with selling some of the collection if need be. But they may also better appreciate now the difficulties that could lie ahead for them. Fisk University has been tied up in the courts for two years now over its attempt to monetize some or all of its art collection.

In that connection I spoke a few nights ago with Jonathan Lee, the chairman of the Rose board of overseers, who pointed out that he’s already made preliminary contacts with the office of the Massachusetts state attorney general to discuss the possibility that the A-G’s office might examine the Brandeis sales — should there be any — beyond the issues of donor intent that the A-G has already said it will look into.

Meanwhile, on the website of the Boston Globe today there’s an audio download of an interview with Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz. In that interview he says that thanks to a “quasi-endowment” sufficient to see the school through this year and next, Brandeis has a “two year horizon” in which to make a decision about whether to sell art and which pieces, time enough perhaps to avoid selling in the present badly depressed art market.

Incredibly, in the interview Reinharz now says that there is no intention to “close” the Rose but simply to “transition” it into a study center with exhibition space. The university, he says, “does not talk about ‘the closing of the Rose’, and I think that’s a very important distinction that needs to be made here.”

Excuse me? Here is the opening sentence of the Brandeis press release of Jan. 26 that announced the closing that is now no longer a closing (unless it is).

Brandeis University’s Board of Trustees today voted unanimously to close the Rose Art Museum as part of a campus-wide effort to preserve the university’s educational mission in the face of the historic economic recession and financial crisis.

This is important of course because if Brandeis is not closing the Rose Museum, then it will continue to be subject to the ethical codes that bind museums, including the ones that discourage selling from the collection.

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