What is Art worth? Money or Knowledge or Inspiration? Brandeis will find out.

The announcement that Brandeis University was going to close the Rose Art Museum and sell off part or most of the collection, a collection that includes one of the best representations of America in the 1950s and 1960s – a time when the center of art theory and practice moved from Europe to the USA, caused a ruffle in my house. My artist wife is very fond of the Rose, was just up there in the past year, and, frankly, couldn’t believe the University’s decision.

It is clear that some of Brandeis’ major donors have been affected by the Madoff Scandal and will not likely be able to replace the 23% drop in Brandeis’ endowment with cash donations. But to sell off the art, which probably retains its value in the face of all the current economic shenanigans, only provides money to the institution. It takes away academic sources of art history. It takes away a single location for the inspiration of future artists.

President Jehuda Reinharz could make cuts across the board of all departments and use the Museum’s collection as a source for income in academic ways with other institutions: rental of individual pieces for short terms, foundations for books and catalogs to be sold, as backups for loans perhaps.

This will wipe out a museum, split up a collection (how many pieces will go overseas and into private hands, no longer available to American students?) and make a major University a minor player in the Fine Arts.

This should be rethought.

Under The LobsterScope