Thursday, January 29, 2009

Art Closeout Sale

More Madoff fallout - a university has to make a tough decision.

Brandeis University.....has incurred the wrath of the art world for deciding to shut down its Rose Art Museum and sell off its famed collection, which was valued at $350 million in 2007.

The coffers are empty, and the choices are limited and ugly.

Peter French, Brandeis’s chief operating officer, explained that the university’s situation is far more dire than it appeared in news accounts.....He objected to the word “bankrupt,” but what would you call an institution with a projected deficit of $79 million over the next six years, a tapped-out reserve fund, a shrunken endowment and “quite a number” of big donors hit hard by the Madoff scandal?

Faced with the prospect of closing 40 percent of the university’s buildings, reducing staff by an additional 30 percent, or firing 200 of its 360 faculty members—any of which, French said, would drastically change the university’s mission and essentially cripple it—“We’d rather use Rose.”

It has caused a fuss.

The Association of College and University Museums and Galleries, and the much more important Association of Art Museum Directors (whose members include the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art), issued statements of shock, deploring the proposed sale.