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a withered rose

February 2, 2009

The following is an open letter from Michael Rush, the Director of the Rose Art Museum which he posted on the museum’s website (PDF here). If you are not familiar with the situation already there is a good article in the NYTimes explaining the situation. Though generally i do my best to refrain from personal commentary on this blog i can’t hide my disgust with the board of trustees of Brandeis University, but Mr. Rush deserves to be heard. Please send letters of support to rosemail@courier.brandeis.edu

Statement from Michael Rush, Director of the Rose Art Museum, regarding the impending closing of the museum.

As Director of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University I want to express to you, the Rose Art Museum community, my shock and horror at the university’s decision to close the Rose Art Museum. As a member of the Brandeis community I feel shame and deep regret over the shortsightedness of this decision. The Rose’s cherished collection, known from participation in countless exhibitions around the world, now stands on the verge of dissemination into private hands. I want you to know from me some basic facts: neither the Rose staff nor the Rose Board of Overseers had any knowledge of this decision. Indeed, we were never consulted at all. We were informed one hour before the press release went out. Do not be fooled into thinking that the Rose is being closed because it is a financial drain on the university. It isn’t. While acknowledging the profound financial challenges every institution is facing, the Rose, a fundamentally self sustaining entity within Brandeis, is in relatively good financial health. The Rose is being closed due to the University’s desire to sell the cherished collection. Period.

Art cannot be treated as a liquid asset. Seeking a solution to dire financial difficulties by selling precious art that was given (or bought) in the deepest trust between donors and the university (via the museum) is an aberration. History will record this as a desperate action that flies in the face of all intellectual and ethical standards. Brandeis is putting its intellectual capital and very credibility as an institution of higher learning on the auction block. No one wins here. Even the expected buyers of this dearly held art will be purchasing tainted goods marked with the blood of this ill begotten action.

It is a sad day for Brandeis. The notion that the Rose, with all of its historical significance, could continue to exist in some way, as well intentioned a thought as that might be, is very unrealistic. No one will ever again contribute funds, much less artwork, to this institution; no art work will be lent to it from other institutions; no professional artist or curator will want to be associated with it and those who remain here in the arts will forever be identified with “the institution that closed the Rose Museum and sold its artwork.” My deepest feelings go out to my glorious staff who cannot bear the thought of observing, much less being a part of, the dismantling of this great museum.

Many forms of protest are currently underway, most especially with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office. Brandeis, a truly inspiring university, built on the foundation of social justice and commitment to the highest pursuit of human understanding and dignity, has temporarily betrayed this vision for supposed short-term gain, which may, in the end, prove unattainable in any case.

Michael Rush
Henry and Lois Foster Director
Rose Art Museum

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