The embattled Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University opened a small show on Wednesday, occupying half of the museum’s galleries. “Numbers, Color and Text: Works from the Collection” attracted a few visitors who meandered around the low-slung modernist building.
A series of thickly painted Alfred Jensen canvases ringed the upstairs level. Stark geometric prints by Josef Albers and others were displayed downstairs. The Foster and Lee galleries were hung with signs stating they would reopen in the fall.
“We are open and we are going to continue to have exhibitions,” said Roy Dawes, the director of museum operations, who is in charge while the administration searches for an interim director. Dawes, who is also an artist, said he organized the show in three weeks.
Michael Rush, the museum’s former director who had led the fight opposing the Brandeis administration’s efforts to liquidate the collection, departed on June 30. The museum has held no shows since the end of April.
In January Brandeis officials said university budget deficits of $10 million fueled the decision shutter the Rose. A wave of art world opposition and outrage mounted, and the administration has since wavered on plans.
Christie’s appraised the collection for $350 million in 2007, at the height of the art market bubble.
Ironically, in September, Abrams is publishing a coffee table book celebrating the museum’s collection. The book project was undertaken two years ago, according to Dawes, and includes illustrations of about 200 artworks from the collection.
Willem de Kooning’s 1961 “Untitled” in lush yellow, peaches and blues—and recently in New York on loan to the Haunch of Venison gallery—graces the cover. An exhibition of museum highlights, the largest ever presented, is scheduled to coincide with the book’s publication. The show will go on, says Dawes.
The Rose now operates with a skeletal staff. Without a director, curators or director of education, remaining staffers include a part-time employee assisting with financial matters, a registrar and student volunteers, according to Dawes.
Dawes organized the current show in three weeks, plucking important pieces by Robert Indiana and Judy Chicago from among the museum’s approximately 7,500 artworks. Despite efforts to keep the doors open, the Rose’s future remains in limbo.
“They are looking at gift agreements, and there is still the possibility of a sale,” said Dawes. “Simply put, they are looking at the gift agreements to see what can be sold.”
In one of the two closed galleries, the Lee Gallery, a pair of Xerox machines hummed away as a man copied the contents of gift folders.