Art, higher-education collections, and the economy

According to Goldy Blumenstyk of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Brandeis University (Boston, MA, US) will sell the art collected at the Rose Museum. Under the headline “Brandeis U. Plans to Close Its Museum and Sell Its Valuable Art Collection,” Ms. Blumenstyk explained that “Recession worries have claimed their latest academic victim: Brandeis University announced on Monday that it would close its art museum and auction off its collection of contemporary art.” Given the apparent quality of the collection, I’m very sorry that I haven’t visited it; perhaps I can get there before it goes on the block.

The permanent collection of The Rose Art Museum is internationally recognized for its quality and comprehensiveness. The collection numbers over 8,000 objects and is particularly strong in American art of the 1960s and 1970s. In line with seminal acquisitions of works by Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Morris Louis, James Rosenquist, and Andy Warhol in the ’60s, The Rose, through the establishment of the Rose and Hays Purchase Funds, continues its committment [sic] to acquiring art produced in our time. Recent acquisitions have included works by Matthew Barney, Helen Frankenthaler, Nan Goldin, Alfredo Jaar, Donald Judd, Annette Lemieux, Robert Mangold, Judy Pfaff, Anri Sala, Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, and Jackie Windsor.

The financial situation being what it is, I wonder how many other institutions of higher education will have to sell collections in whole or part to help them survive the downturn. And, where will these works go? Will some folks take a de Kooning or two out of circulation and hang them in a den? Will patrons broker the movement of some to other musea?

When an Iowa institution of higher education sold a prominent painting last year, my brother Frank had some enlightening observations about how the art world responds to these actions; those were in private correspondence, but perhaps he’ll have public comments on his blog about this event. Looks as though the phrase “continues its committment [sic] to acquiring art produced in our time” will need to be updated. Link to the Rose Museum. Link to Ms. Blumenstyk’s article from the Chronicle.



Filed under News, Thanks for reading

5 responses to “Art, higher-education collections, and the economy

  1. pjm

    We were shaking our heads about this at dinner last night. (Noah’s wife works in the art world, and both Noah and I were accepted to Brandeis’s CS grad program but chose Tufts.)

    There *have* been colleges which started selling their art collections to pay the bills; at least one that I recall started 2-3 years ago, a women’s college down South somewhere (south of you, I think – Randolph Macon?). Brandeis shocked me because they’re considered alongside many of the rich northeast colleges. I can see selling the art instead of selling (say) campus real estate; I’m not sure that “a shrinking endowment” is enough of a reason.

    And that’s not even touching the question of the College’s responsibility or obligations to the donors who gave the art in the first place.

  2. Parker, you’re right about Randy Mac selling a portrait a few years ago. Also, in a slightly different vein, remember that Lincoln University broke the terms of a gift the established the Barnes Collection. Lots of interesting events in this world.

    Here are links to some well-informed sources about the Rose plans to sell:


  3. Mike Licht

    Don’t see why everybody has missed the positive aspects of the closing of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis ….

    Seriously, this must have been done to provoke outrage — and new funding.

  4. In addition to following the Brandeis story on the Boston Globe, Tyler Green’s Modern Arts Notes, and Lee Rosenbaum’s Culture Grrl, one might want to check out a respected blog from a New York art dealer:

    Tyler Green, Lee Rosenbaum and Richard Locayo are all over this story, and each has interviews and daily postings. This news is more strange and shocking each day. It will be interesting to see the comments they get from other art world figures as well as folks in the world of academics.


  5. Frank, thanks for the comment and link. I just ran a search of blogs via Google and found literally 1000s of references:

    You are right: It’s a hot topic.

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