Monday, February 02, 2009

Weekend Rose

Quick end-of-the-weekend Rose roundup.

Roberta Smith says the move is "an act of breathtaking stealth and presumption":

"In a just and moral society, art is crucial to our understanding of freedom, difference and individual agency. The message out of Brandeis University last week — to its own students and to the world — was that when the going gets tough, none of this matters. Art is dispensable."

It's a "destructive — and self-destructive — move," but she also gets why it's happening:

"What better way to avoid the messy legalities of deaccessioning artworks, with the attendant denunciations from Association of Art Museum Directors and other professional organizations that monitor and weigh in on sales of individual works of art? (The association’s guidelines say that art works can be sold only to finance acquisitions.) If there is no museum, there are no guidelines to violate."

The New York Times editorial board
also condemns the move:

"Selling the university’s art collection would help plug its financial gap, but it would create a gaping hole in Brandeis’s mission and its reputation. It would default on one of the great collections of contemporary art in New England .... Surely it would make more sense to share the pain across the university’s budget."

Felix Salmon listens to a presentation Brandeis's president and COO made at an open forum at the school last week, and comes away thinking "it's clear ... that closing the Rose is completely and utterly unnecessary." And he still thinks the reason it's happening is to "get around [the] deaccessioning rules":

"Weirdly, neither [COO] French nor [president] Reinharz felt the need to explain why they were closing the museum: maybe they thought it was obvious. And no one asked them, either. But whenever journalists have asked the question, the answer has been the same: basically, it's really difficult to sell art out of a museum, so if we're going to be selling art, we're going to have to close the museum first. . . .

"Keeping the museum open would surely make selling the art more difficult -- the director would surely object were any important works to be put on the block. . . . I suspect that shuttering the museum is basically a way of minimizing the opposition to any given sale: if everything goes according to the trustees' plan, then once the current firestorm is over, the university might be able to sell off individual works very quietly, without having anybody try to stand up for them and the role they play in the university's cultural life."

(Salmon had more on how the prohibition against deaccessioning led to the closure of the Rose late Friday.)

The Art Market Monitor is connecting more dots.

Lee Rosenbaum asks whether Brandeis president Jehudah Reinharz should be deaccessioned.

Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento is almost convinced "that the deaccessioning police caused the Rose Art Museum's fire-sale."

Thomas Garvey says "between Brandeis and the Rose, I'll take Brandeis - and I don't see why some of the Rose's holdings can't wind up in the collections of other area institutions, where they'll actually be more accessible to the Boston public."