Thursday, February 05, 2009

Mars and Venus

I mentioned a piece yesterday by Judith Dobrzynski, which talked about the differing reactions to the Rose story by those inside the art world, on the one hand, and the rest of the world, on the other.

Here's an example from the rest of the world: San Diego law professor Gail Heriot. She begins:

"Like all endowed colleges and universities, [Brandeis has] taken it on the chin of late. But Brandeis has been hit harder than most, since Bernie Madoff has ... uh .... made off with the fortunes of several of its most loyal donors. In the judgment of its president, the best way to deal with the crisis is to sell off the museum's holdings, which are valued at more than $300 million and which include works by Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. The money from that sale will allow Brandeis to continue its core mission, which is education, not the collection of art. I'm not inclined to second guess him on that."

She then mentions the AAMD guidelines, and says:

"As Wood and Ricketts point out [in this piece], this position is a bit self-serving. 'The "public trust,"' they note, 'seems to coincide almost miraculously with the professional interests of museum curators, and art works can be traded, in effect, only for more art.' It's also a little odd. Is there any other asset of colleges and universities that must be treated this way? If I donate land to a college or university, does it have to be sold for other land?"

As an aside, she notes: "I helped draft an agreement between USD School of Law and one of our donors a few months ago. The agreement is structured to allow USD flexibility in case USD finds itself in a dire financial situation. The donor was perfectly happy with that, and I suspect that Brandeis donors would also prefer that Brandeis attend to its core mission first in times of financial crisis. I do not believe that anyone is claiming in the Brandeis case that the sale of the art contravenes any explicit agreement with any donor."