Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Brandeis de-accessions its mind

Above is Childe Hassam's (pronounced "child hass'm," btw) "Sunset at Sea," painted in 1911, and inspired by his experiences on islands off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire. It's been in the possession of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis since 1958, but as of November 29, it's going up on the auction block at Christie's.

The Rose argues (in today's Globe) that it has jumped through all the appropriate hoops regarding the sale: the proceeds from the sale are earmarked solely for the purchase of art, and Rose Director Michael Rush "received the go-ahead from the Brandeis University administration, Rose trustees, representatives from the family that donated the picture, and the American Association of Museum Directors."

Still, something rankles here. I don't mean to overrate the Hassam, but it's lovely, and one of the Rose's major possessions, and it would be a shame for it to move out of the area, as Hassam was a local painter (born in Dorchester), and the scene is of the New England coast. The Rose argues that the painting doesn't fit with its mission, and has rarely been on display (this only makes one wonder why it wasn't loaned to a local institution that would display it). Of course it's possible a regional buyer, or group of buyers, could come to the rescue at Christie's on November 29 - but one has to wonder, was it impossible to strike some kind of deal prior to the auction?

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