Monday, April 27, 2009

"Topic A, B, C, and D"

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Stephan Salisbury previews this week's annual meeting of the American Association of Museums: "despite the multiplicity of interests and the range of institutional sizes and locations, there will be one thing on everyone's mind. Money." And he includes the following:

"All over, the money problem nags, and one fund-raising gambit that continually tempts museums is selling off art and artifacts from collections. There have been an increasing number of such sales recently, particularly by strapped educational institutions that use their art collections to raise capital funds or to cover operating deficits and shore up endowments.

"Philadelphia became sharply aware of that phenomenon when Thomas Jefferson University sold off its extraordinary collection of Thomas Eakins paintings in 2006 and 2007. Since then, a number of colleges have sold or tried to sell artwork, most notably Brandeis University, which announced in January that it would close its Rose Art Museum and sell the entire collection, valued at roughly $350 million.

"The move, designed to cover an operating deficit and approved by university trustees, immediately set off an uproar. Since then, the university has softened public comment, but the Rose board of overseers issued a statement last week arguing that Brandeis was holding to its goal of sale and closure.

"Rose overseer Meryl Rose, a relative of the museum founders, said in a statement Thursday that trustees 'have been led astray by a disingenuous administration motivated to push an agenda that involves looting the school's culture to simply balance the books.'"