By Kim Rorschach
I was intrigued to read Geoff Edgers’ story in The Boston Globe this morning.
Brandeis University plans to hire Sotheby’s auction house to raise money by loaning out works of art.
Full disclosure: I am a Brandeis alumna and spent many wonderful hours working at the Rose Art Museum as a student.
I am of two minds about this plan.
It’s not ideal, certainly, and does raise some thorny mission issues. But Brandeis has serious financial concerns. If the Rose is able to send the collection out on a money-making tour, as many other museums have done, it’s not the end of the world, as long as the pictures return and in the long term enrich the educational experience of Brandeis students and the broader community. Indeed, it could be argued that increasing visibility and interest in this way could serve to make the museum more effective and impactful once the collection returns home. It might attract more student interest. More regional and national visitors would venture out to Waltham.
There is certainly plenty of precedent for something like this. A lot depends on where they lend the pictures, of course. And it’s not clear that they could realize all that much revenue, but if they could realize some substantial sum it might help the leadership and trustees to abandon the idea of selling the collection outright.
In general, I feel we have to oppose sales very vigorously but not overstep ourselves by opposing all arrangements that realize value in other ways. It depends on many things.
Kim Rorschach is the Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.