Thoughts on the Rose Committee’s Interim Report

“BRANDEIS IS NOT CLOSING THE ROSE AND SELLING ALL THE ARTWORK.” Words and italics from them, bold and caps from yours truly.  If you’re going to take anything from the interim report of the Future of the Rose Committee, make it that.  We’ve sat and listened as the Rose first was closed, then open for the semester, then for part of the summer, then the whole summer, then open indefinitely.  Finally, we have an absolutely definitive statement from a body that’s spent lots of time researching this very issue that the Rose is not going anywhere, and, in fact, that we’re bound by donor agreements to keep the Rose Art Museum open by that very name.

The report, which was released to the entire Brandeis community last Thursday, is just a preliminary document detailing the progress the committee has made towards compiling its final report, which will be released in early fall.  I recommend reading the whole thing, as there’s a lot to chew over (everyone with a Brandeis e-mail address should have received it on Thursday; if you didn’t get it/already deleted it, we’ll have it uploaded as soon as I can figure out how to use our media library you can find it here in PDF form).  The following are just some quick thoughts on points I found particularly important:

  • Legally, there is absolutely no reason why we can’t continue to operate a public museum even after sales of art work.  Why was there so much misinformation about this?  Why did I hear so often that keeping the Rose open was impossible if we sold even part of the collection?  Why didn’t the University immediately correct these statements?  They must have done some research into the legal issues involved, right?  It’s a testament to utter failure of the message control over the Rose that not only was our course of action completely incorrect as initially announced, but that we couldn’t even get simple, critical facts like this correct.
  • That being said, selling art for any reason other than to purchase other art is a huge taboo in the museum and art communities.  Of course, we already knew this.  However, now that we have clarified that the Rose itself isn’t going anywhere, it’s time for the art world to meet Brandeis halfway here.  Our message now is actually refreshingly frank and fair.  The facts are simple: the University as a whole is more important than the Rose; if the University fails, the Rose goes down with it; we are doing everything we possibly can to avoid selling any artwork; but if worst comes to worst, we will do as we must to maintain the Brandeis we know and love.  If the members of art community tries to dispute any of this, they are leaving their area of expertise, which is art, and trying to outdo university administrators at university administration.  If they instead approach us as allies with a vested interest in how we survive our time of crisis, we can come together to find the least damaging and most acceptable solution, and the lessons we learn and the bonds we form will keep a situation like this from ever occurring again.  Until the dogma of “art sales are bad, period” is abandoned, we are losing our only chance to make the best of this situation.
  • The Future of the Rose Committee is remaining neutral on the core matter of selling art to raise funds, and I couldn’t applaud them any more for it.  Their stance will disappoint some people.  However, they are not avoiding this important debate; they are merely ensuring that it occurs in its proper setting, among the entire Brandeis community.  By ceding the chance to become partisans with the platform they were given, they are strengthening their position as unbiased researchers,  and the debate which will occur will be more informed for it.

Overall, the report is a great summary of what we know so far, and it will be a valuable tool to counter the negative propaganda which is still hounding us.  My personal thumbs up goes out to the Committee, and I look forward to reading the final report.


2 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Rose Committee’s Interim Report”

  1. Adam to answer the question that was bothering you to the best of my knowledge Brandeis as previously stated may not legally be allowed to sell the art to quote art law gallery “The American Association of Museums prohibits the proceeds of such sales from being used for anything other than further acquisitions or direct care of collections, and the International Council of Museums’ standard is similar. Most prominent American museums are members of one or both groups, which means that it’s not ethical for member museums to sell off a Warhol or Mondrian to cover salaries or other operating expenses, no matter how acute the need.” There is also still a legal question of allowing the works to be deaccessioned from museum. Note that the controversy is covering the sale of one painting from the museum. to sell an entire collection (or a large chunk of it for that matter) may violate the associations guidelines and possibly a few laws along the way. That said if there is no museum then the university can sell as much work as it needs (think going out of business sale) as long as it does not violate donor intent. The university would not have to subscribe to AAM guidelines because there is no longer a museum. This said however there may be previous cases which can possibly permit the sale of art to benefit the institution however it is a legally Grey area and so rather than take the simplistic route and close down the museum to avoid problems we have decided to abide by the will of the community and keep it open. As for the future it is uncertain but I am sure there are many legal experts looking into it

  2. I’m not an art/finearts/art history person, but I would like to make a few points. While on the surface the Rose remaining open is great, I do not think it is a victory, and would like to contest a few points in this post.

    First, this interim report did not tell the community anything that had not already been reported in the Hoot, Justice, Boston Globe or Daily News Tribune–if you go back and read the issues, all of this information has already been publicized, not by the administration, but by third parties seeking out the media to get the facts out there. This report is merely playing catch up for what we already know.

    Second, there was misinformation about the legality of selling stuff BECAUSE the university’s legal team fucked up and they had to sell things. then they found Edward Rose’s will, which said that it was actually illegal to close the museum, but that it is thought only extremely unethical if they sell art for the university’s profit.

    I suspect that the university never outright corrected it because they didn’t want the papers to know that they neglected to look at ANY of the 7,183 plus documents pertaining to the rose and its art before they decided to close the museum (it looks bad)

    People aren’t just pissed that the university wants to sell art–i think among the fine arts faculty/ community at Brandeis that’s been accepted as unfortunate, but happening. people are pissed that a. the museum is being maintained in a “bare bones” manner without even a director to keep it running.

    While one could attribute a cut in museum staff to budgetary concerns, considering which staff members have been cut–the Director and Currator are the life blood of a museum–I don’t think one can do that in this case.

    It looks like the Unviersity is just doing what is minimally required of them to fulfill Edward Rose’ will, its not out of any genuine concern for the art world or the museum etc.

    Also, the rose committee has no actual power and therefore no actual purpose. It’s basically a figurehead to give the semblance of community involvement. It has no say over what art will be sold or over what personnel will be kept or fired. thus far, all decisions about the rose have been made either by the trustees, or unilaterally by provost Krauss

    And one last point–I don’t think people, at least in the arts community, trust the administration enough yet to trust that the sale of art is necessary for the university to remain a float financially. The administration has shown a lot of disrespect toward the greater community this past semester and those wounds are slow to heal–especially when this committee seems like a half-assed PR attempt.

    The saddest part about this whole Rose thing, for me, at least, has been that after the initial decision, no one in the greater community seems to care about what happens–even if they don’t care about the museum, the way in which the administration handles this decision will set a precedent for how it handles the myriad of difficult decisions that are sure to come during this financial crisis. If no one calls them on their crap now, they’ll be able to pull it again for when they…say…dismantle the American Studies Department, or whatever else they think up.

    Innermost Parts was great with the Rose decision for the first month, but II’ve been disappointed by Innermost Parts’ coverage of the Rose latey for this very reason. This isn’t meant as a knock to Adam, but usually you guys are so quick to pick up on stuff like this…

    Where’s the skepticism?

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