Work by the Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann, currently on display at the Rose Museum, Brandeis University. Image from the New York Times.
While I had heard last week of Brandeis University's decision to close its art museum, the Rose, and sell of the entirety of the collection in order to make up for a rapidly plunging endowment and a $10 million budget deficit, my outrage was renewed as I read more about the decision today.
I'm disgusted by President Jehuda Reinharz and the trustees of the University, who seem to feel that a museum is little more than a repository of items which hold little more value than monetary. The choice to sell off any public collection of art for profit or financial use other than funding more acqusitions is considered morally and ethically wrong by most everyone in the art world. These works belong not to the current regime of the school, but the entire Brandeis community, students past present and future, not to mention faculty, staff, and the greater Massachusetts and world communities.
And don't even get me started on the legal implications of trying to deaccesion any works of art in a public collection, never mind those that were donated or bought with donated funds with the understanding that they would be held, protected, and accessible to the public in perpetuity. If I were a donor to the school or museum, I would be disgusted and outraged at the University's blatent disregard of my intentions and generosity.
I may not have visited the Rose before, may not have been aware of its apparently unrivaled collection of 20th century masters, but I am infuriated by the short-sightedness, the ignorance, and the contempt for the value of art this decision shows. I fervently hope that the outrage surrounding the closing of the Rose prevents such actions from becoming a precedent for other financially-challenged institutions. What sort of country would we be if our bastions of academia disposed of their artistic, literary, historic, scientific, etc, treasures to the highest private bidders?