Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Yes, More Brandeis...

I've pretty much left the Brandeis stuff alone, as it seems to have settled down a bit. However, there are two interesting articles that came out today. One is regarding the negative effects the economic crisis is having on nonprofits, and the other on what would happen if Brandeis University sold some of its top art works.

The first article is in the Wall Street Journal, and unfortunately one must be a online subscriber to access it. The other is in the recent New York Magazine. A bit from both articles.

[L]aws passed decades ago to keep charitable gifts from disappearing too rapidly have suddenly started hamstringing institutions from the Audubon Society to Brandeis University, which are taking a beating from the recession and the collapse in stock prices. The laws restrict spending from endowment funds, which invest heavily in stocks and other assets that have taken a hit amid the financial turmoil.

Gift-spending restrictions on nonprofits were enacted across the country in the 1970s. State legislators passed a raft of rules that let charities -- which traditionally favored bonds -- put their savings in stocks and other growth-oriented investments. But a key proviso protected an institution's long-term health: An endowment couldn't spend a dime if a gift fund fell below its initial dollar value. Endowments are generally made up of major gifts, each with restrictions of how they can be spent.

Brandeis University’s decision to close its Rose Art Museum might be more than a curatorial transgression. It might also be a bad business move—and not just for the university.

Some of the art world’s biggest players could be affected. An investment group that includes Larry Gagosian bought a slew of rare paintings at the top of the market last spring from the Ileana Sonnabend estate. Her Andy Warhols and other key works were among the last of their kind in private hands. Now Brandeis threatens to sell “superb and extraordinary” works from the same period, says art appraiser Victor Wiener, and some dealers and collectors may find “you still have a great work of art, but it’s not the greatest—and you may have paid too much for it.” The record for a Warhol is $71.7 million, set two years ago for his Green Car Crash painting. Brandeis has its own very good car-crash painting titled, appropriately enough, Saturday Disaster.

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