28 January 2009

No longer roseate now, nor soft, nor sweet

In an effort to fund more critical operations, Brandeis University has decided to close The Rose Art Museum and to sell off its extensive collection of postwar art.

It's heartbreaking to read the mission statement of a failed operation:
Founded in 1961, The Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University is an educational and cultural institution dedicated to collecting, preserving and exhibiting the finest of modern and contemporary art. The programs of the Rose adhere to the overall mission of the University, embracing its values of academic excellence, social justice, and freedom of expression.

An active participant in the academic, cultural, and social life of Brandeis, the Rose seeks to stimulate public awareness and disseminate knowledge of modern and contemporary art to enrich educational, cultural, and artistic communities regionally, nationally, and internationally.

The Rose affirms the principle that knowledge of the past informs an understanding of the present and provides the critical foundation for shaping the future. It promotes learning and understanding of the evolving meanings, ideas, and forms of visual art relevant to contemporary society.

An interesting thing to note, though, is where all the art came from. The New York Times reports:
When the museum opened in 1961, it had no acquisitions budget. So its collection grew mainly through gifts. Among the most significant was a $50,000 donation from the collectors Leon Mnuchin and his wife, Harriet Gevirtz-Mnuchin, to be used to buy contemporary art. The only restriction was that no individual work should cost more than $5,000. With that money, Sam Hunter, the museum’s founding director, was able to buy 21 paintings by then-young artists like Rauschenberg, Warhol, Lichtenstein and Mr. Johns that are among the most valuable works in the collection today.
Is it ethical to sell gifts?

As Jasper Johns, an artist who's works figured prominently at the museum, said, “I find it astonishing. I’ve never heard anything like it.”

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