Art museum to close and all paintings sold: Another economic fallout

The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Waltham Massachusetts is in danger of being closed and all its paintings sold as a way to pump up its endowment. From reading the story in the New York Times, it seems this is another fallout to partially attribute to Bernard Madoff who ran the Ponzi scheme that snagged rich folks (and the rest of us) in its disastrous financial net. Because donors are hurting, they’re tightening their purse strings, thus they are not giving as much money–if at all.

Universities and colleges that rely on donors to keep their endowments bolstered are needing to find new ways to make ends meet. Brandeis has cast its eye on its vast collection of art that includes works by Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. The collection, in a good economy, could fetch up to $400 million. In this economy, the total may not come close to that at all.

The university’s board is not happy with the plan–they weren’t consulted about the decision, and it’s not even clear if closing the museum and selling the artwork is legal. Either one depends on the agreements made when the museum opened and when donations were given. There is a fear that this museum’s closing may signal other universities to follow suit. What a shame.

Personally, I hope this doesn’t set off a trend. University art museums are some of the more interesting places to see art and they are often free–or if not free, very inexpensive. Also, what does this mean for people who are looking for places to donate art?

Interestingly, an exhibit that opened at the museum on January 15 is called “Saints and Sinners.” Kind of fitting for the times, I think. The painting in the photo is by Hans Hoffman, an American abstract painter. Several of his works, never seen before in the U.S., are also on exhibit until April 5.