27 January 2009

Tearing the House Down for Fuel in Winter

In today’s Boston Globe was a piece on how Brandeis is auctioning off the Rose Art Museum. Jonathan Lee, chairman of the Rose’s board of overseers: “What they’re doing is a travesty.” Museum director Michael Rush learned of the unanimous decision by the university’s board of trustees only as a fait accompli.

As if by coincidence, Lee Rosenbaum heads the Arts & Leisure section of today’s Wall Street Journal with a piece about the challenges of the current economic environment for Michael Conforti, president of the Association of Art Museum Directors. Well, challenges for the museums, as well as for Conforti and the Association, to be sure. Challenges which drove the National Academy Museum in New York to pull a Brandeis. Rosenbaum writes:

. . . the academy’s sacrifice of two paintings to raise cash was condemned last month by AAMD’s board as a serious violation of museum ethics. The sales broke a cardinal rule—that proceeds from selling art may be used only for buying other art. . .

. . . “These objects are are there for the collective cultural patrimony of the people who live in this country. They are not fungible assets,” Mr Conforti declared to me.

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