Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Evening Rose

Lots to take in on the Rose story.

First, an important correction from Geoff Edgers: it turns out the Massachusetts attorney general's office has not signed off on the move.

More from Randy Kennedy and Carol Vogel in the New York Times:

"Emily LaGrassa, director of communications for the state attorney general ..., said that Brandeis had informed the office on Monday of its decision, but had not consulted with the attorney general in advance. ... 'We have not yet offered any opinion on any aspect of the proposed sales,' she said, adding, 'We do expect this to be a lengthy process.'"

Kennedy and Vogel do a great job with the story: the word "deaccession" never appears. As I said this morning, this isn't so much a deaccessioning as the closing of a museum. Sergio politely disagrees: he says "even though it is not the museum that is deaccessioning, isn't an institution (in this case Brandeis University) selling off its art assets to continue being in business?" Of course that's true. "Deaccessioning" is, after all, just a fancy word for "selling," so yes, Brandeis is selling the museum's collection, but thinking about it in terms of deaccessioning is more likely to confuse than enlighten. For example, the argument against deaccessioning generally starts from the premise that, as the director-elect of the Kimbell Art Museum put it in an interview with Lee Rosenbaum just a few days ago, "art is the reason why a museum exists," that "a museum has operating expenses in order to serve the mission of caring for the art and presenting that art to the public." But certainly that isn't why a university exists. Brandeis's mission is broader than caring for art and presenting it to the public. There are lots of reasons to be upset with, to oppose, to protest against the university's decision, but calling it a deaccessioning doesn't seem to me to advance the debate any.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports on a Madoff connection: "Among the biggest donors to Brandeis are the philanthropist Carl Shapiro and his wife, Ruth. Carl Shapiro and his family foundation had losses of $545 million in Madoff’s alleged Ponzi scheme."

And Lee Rosenbaum has lots of stuff, including reaction from the AAMD and the Association of College and University Museums and Galleries (they're both against it) and a suggestion that the university's claim of a unanimous faculty vote isn't quite right.

Finally, it got lost in the shuffle of the Rose announcement, but another museum announced it was closing too: the 73-year-old Gulf Coast Museum of Art "abruptly closed its doors for good Monday .... The museum says it's out of money and options. Instead of putting its sculptures, jewelry and artwork into temporary storage, it's preparing to donate them to other museums."