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Rose Art Museum to Lease Works from Its Collection

posted by Christopher Howard — Jul 12, 2010

The latest development at Brandeis University, which early last year decided to close the Rose Art Museum and sell its prized collection of modern art, is to lease works from its collections through a partnership with the auction house Sotheby’s. Selling works from the museum to alleviate the school’s recession-shattered endowment, critics say, is not off the table. The Rose collection ranges from classics by Willem de Kooning and Robert Rauschenberg to more recent works by Dana Schutz, whose first museum exhibition was held at the Rose in 2006.

“The talks between Sotheby’s and Brandeis started a year ago,” writes Ellen Howards of the Boston Herald, but school officials cannot “predict which institutions might lease the art, which works could be made available or what sum a leasing deal would generate.”

A Boston Globe editorial proclaims that “Brandeis should only lend to institutions capable of caring for its artworks. And it should use any revenues to guarantee a future for the Rose.” In a bold statement, the paper also suggests that the university “deserves praise, not criticism, for trying to raise revenue through its collection.”

Geoff Edgars, also of the Boston Globe, offers recent precedents for the Rose’s controversial move: the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta have all rented artworks to other museums and institutions.

In addition, last week Brandeis announced the hiring of a new president, Frederick M. Lawrence, dean of George Washington University Law School. He will fill the position to be vacated by Jehuda Reinharz, who was responsible for the ill-fated idea to close the museum and sell its art, in January 2011.