Thursday, March 19, 2009

Am I a bad person if I don't care about the Rose?

I confess the controversy about the closing of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis leaves me slightly cold. Even though I realize that the Brandeis actions form a terrible precedent for university behavior. Intellectually, I stand with those who oppose the closing, and I certainly agree that after his recent displays of incompetence and flat-out dishonesty, President Jehuda Reinharz has got to go (feel free to mentally add "hey hey, ho ho" to that sentiment).

Still, I find myself not really caring that much if the collection is broken up and disappears. This is probably because I've never seen much of it - and so far I have yet to meet anyone who has. The Rose art collection is made up largely of modern and postmodern works that don't lend themselves to popular sentimental attachment - and to be blunt, they've rarely been showcased in depth. Many of the journalists who have written in outrage about the ongoing imbroglio are taking on faith the actual quality and interest of the collection, and rarely ponder that Brandeis never seems to have been that committed to it, anyway. I keep wondering if it - or perhaps coherent chunks of it - might be better off someplace else, where more people could actually see the works themselves; this to me kind of trumps all the horror over donors' wishes being ignored or violated (although I understand that yes, that violation has indeed occurred). And I seem to be the only one who notices that the MFA is building a giant space for a modern collection that frankly is fairly mediocre, while Brandeis is looking to de-accession a modern collection that people insist is pretty good even though they haven't seen it. One wonders if there isn't some agreement possible between these two institutions. And as I've said before, I've yet to hear anyone suggest what the university should do without in order to hold onto its unseen collection. If the university cut its activities elsewhere, but returns to the old status quo regarding the Rose - that is, maintaining the collection in storage - well, let's just say I'm not sure that would be the optimal outcome.

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