Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More on the Brandeis Liquidation Sale

This morning Donn Zaretsky blogged about the different takes on the Brandeis fire-sale. He further argues that the fire-sale should not be seen through the deaccessioning prism at all, but rather:

I'm actually not sure it makes sense to view this through the "deaccessioning" prism at all. Isn't it more that the university has decided to get out of the business of running a museum altogether? If the National Academy, after embracing furious fundraising and failing, were to declare bankruptcy and close its doors, would that be properly viewed as a "deaccessioning" worthy of condemnation? In fact, I wonder if the taboo against selling individual pieces might not have contributed, in some small way, to Brandeis's decision to close the museum? If they could have sold five or ten of the most valuable works without controversy, might the trustees have reached a different conclusion?

In fact, a quick Google search shows us they did deaccession a few pieces back in the early 90's. Artinfo had a nice take on the previous Brandeis fire-sale here back in June of 2008. A brief quote:

[T]he Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University was lambasted in 1991 for auctioning at Christie’s 11 paintings by artists such as Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and Vuillard and using the $3.65 million in proceeds in part for conservation and to advance the museum’s “educational role.” Critics complained that the Rose had set a terrible precedent by converting a portion of
its collection into cash—“selling one of your children to feed the others,” according to the director of another museum.

Not to mention The Rose Museum's expensive addition earlier this decade.

Brandeis University's Rose Art Museum (architect Shigeru Ban) all have commissioned star architects to make major design changes.

I'm not sure I quite agree with my friend Donn's "this is not deaccessioning" argument. Even though it is not the museum that is deaccessioning, isn't an institution (in this case Brandeis University) selling off it's art assets to continue being in business?

Perhaps a deeper investigation into the directorial discipline will reveal a lax board of trustees. But to the extent of a fire-sale?


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