Brandeis University Selling Important Art Collection to Raise Cash

“I was shocked. I’m still shocked,” Michael Rush, director of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, said about the decision to close the museum.

Michael Rush, director of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University said about the decision to close the museum:  “I was shocked. I’m still shocked.”

By Emily Waldorf

Like many U.S. colleges and universities right now, Boston’s Brandeis University is suffering from a slashed operating budget and dwindling endowment.  Bloomberg reported that several of Brandeis’ key donors, including the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, suffered losses in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. With such unprecedented economic hardship, the university made the controversial decision to offset their $10 million budget defecit by selling the important Rose Art Museum collection.   

The Rose collection houses over 8,000 objects, including a notable modern art collection with works by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, Morris Louis, and James Rosenquist.  Contemporary holdings include works by Helen Frankenthaler, Nan Goldin, Donald Judd, Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, and Matthew Barney.  It is one of the most important postwar collections in the Northeast.    

The president of Brandeis summarized the university’s decision in a statement to the Boston Globe:  “This is not a happy day…. The Rose is a jewel. But for the most part it’s a hidden jewel. It does not have great foot traffic and most of the great works we have, we are just not able to exhibit. We felt that… given the recession and the financial crisis, we had no choice.”

An interior view of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University

An interior view of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University

Brandeis’ decision has been met with harsh criticism from local arts leaders and the wider higher education community.  However, the decision does not come as a shock.  David Robertson, a Northwestern University professor and president of the Association of College and University Museums and Galleries explained:  

“Clearly, what’s happening with Brandeis now is that they decided the easiest way is to look around the campus and find things that can be capitalized…It’s always art that goes first.”

Christie’s is conducting a full appraisal of the collection and the museum is scheduled to close its doors late this summer.  The space will be turned into a fine art teaching and exhibition space.  

It is a tragedy that an educational institution would be forced to sell a jewel of an art collection.  The Brandeis case is yet another important argument for the appointment of a cabinet-level arts leader.    

3 Responses to “Brandeis University Selling Important Art Collection to Raise Cash”

  1. 1 kingleor

    A petition created to oppose the decision to close the Rose Art Museum is available to view and sign here:

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