Rose Art Museum

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Rose Art Museum
Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, January 2017, Waltham MA.jpg
LocationWaltham, Massachusetts
Coordinates42°21′56″N 71°15′45″W / 42.365611°N 71.262556°W / 42.365611; -71.262556
TypeArt museum
Collection size9,000[1]
ArchitectHarrison & Abramovitz
OwnerBrandeis University
Public transit accessMBTA

The Rose Art Museum, founded in 1961, is a part of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, US. Named after benefactors Edward and Bertha Rose, it offers temporary exhibitions, and it displays and houses works of art from the Brandeis University art collections.


The museum's collection includes more than 9,000 objects, including works by such artists as Mark Bradford, Judy Chicago, Helen Frankenthaler, Nan Goldin, William Kentridge, Mona Hatoum, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Willem de Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, Marisol, Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg, Andrés Serrano, Jack Whitten, and Andy Warhol.[1]

In front of the museum stands Light of Reason by Chris Burden. The sculpture, commissioned by the university and installed in 2014, consists of three rows of 24 Victorian lamp posts which point away from the museum's entrance.[2] The sculpture serves as a gateway and outdoor event space, and has become a campus landmark.[3][2]


Sam Hunter, the first director of the Rose Art Museum, came to Brandeis from the Museum of Modern Art, and with a grant of $50,000 from collectors Leon Mnuchin and his wife, Harriet Gevirtz-Mnuchin, launched a collection with iconic works by Johns, Rauschenberg, Warhol, Willem de Kooning and several others—21 works with a ceiling of $5,000 for any one piece bought with the grant.[1] The museum’s exhibition and cultural programming have centered on leading contemporary artists, often giving these artists their first museum exhibitions: Frank Stella, Kiki Smith, Nam June Paik, and Dana Schutz among them. The Rose Art Museum has the leading collection of modern and contemporary art in New England.[citation needed]

The building[edit]

The Rose Art Museum is a small and simple geometric structure designed by the firm Harrison & Abramovitz.[4] Its initial design contained 12,000 square feet (1,100 m2) square feet of exhibition space, a modest size.[4] The building had no freight elevator, and the doors were too small for large works of art.[4] The collection soon outgrew the building, and an expansion was completed in April 1974 at a cost of $500,000.[4] This was also designed by Harrison & Abramovitz.

With approximately 13,000 square feet (1,200 m2) of exhibition space in three galleries, the Rose Art Museum currently offers 9-12 exhibitions a year, most of which are organized by the Rose Art Museum curatorial team. The New York Times has taken notice of important exhibitions at the museum, praising an "eminently worthwhile" David von Schlegell retrospective in 1968;[5] calling a 1969 exhibit of sculpture by James Rosatti "an event of some importance";[6] and devoting a full-length article to a 1981 Helen Frankenthaler exhibition.[7]

1991 sale of works from the collection[edit]

In 1991, Brandeis announced a plan to sell fourteen works of art from the Rose, including three by Renoir, two by Daumier, two by Vuillard, and one by Toulouse-Lautrec. The announcement drew sharp criticism. Arnold L. Lehman, President of the Association of Art Museum Directors called it "like selling one of your children to feed the others," and the Association issued an official criticism of the plan. Mary Gardner Neill of the Yale University Art Gallery said "We still oppose what they're doing, because it's wrong to convert collections into cash.... If a museum sells art, the proceeds must go to replenish the collection with other works of art".[8]

Nevertheless, on November 6, 1991, eleven works were auctioned off at Christie's, bringing in $3.65 million which Brandeis said would be used for "an endowment that will pay for acquisitions, education and conservation".[9]

Planned closing[edit]

On January 26, 2009, Brandeis president Jehuda Reinharz announced in an email to staff and students plans to close the museum by the end of the summer in response to the global financial crisis of 2008–2009. University spokesman Dennis Nealon called the surprise announcement a "hard decision", but said, "The bottom line is that the students, the faculty and core academic mission come first. Trustees had to look at the college's assets and came to a decision to maintain that fundamental commitment to teaching."[10] The move was criticized by the museum's director and board, numerous art-world figures and some donors to the museum.[11][12]

The Massachusetts attorney general's office has approval powers over certain actions of nonprofit institutions located in the state, and Attorney General Martha Coakley said she planned to conduct a detailed review of the decision relative to wills and agreements made with donors.[1] Nealon claimed that the attorney general had "approved the legality of closing the Rose and selling its art",[10] but the attorney general's office claimed they were only informed about the decision, not consulted beforehand. An early estimate of the total value of the collection was in the $350–400 million range, though values may have been less due to a flagging art market. The university's endowment was $700 million before being hit by the drop in financial markets. Several of the university's large donors were reportedly particularly hard hit due to investment with Bernard Madoff.[1]

On July 27, 2009, three of the museum's overseers filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts to halt the closing and sale of works. The three, including a member of the Rose family, contended that the planned closing contradicts the museum's "charitable intentions", violates the trust of those who donated art to the institution, and reneges on "Brandeis's promises that the Rose would be maintained in perpetuity".[13]

Ironically, a major new book was to be published in 2009 by Abrams, anticipating the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Rose Museum.[14] The lead contributor to the book was the museum's director, Michael Rush, who initially was "shell-shocked" by the surprise announcement.[15] Rush later helped to organize opposition to the proposed closing. His contract with Brandeis was not renewed in June 2009, effectively forcing him out.[16] In December 2010, Rush secured a position as director of the new Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University.[17]

By June 30, 2011, under the new leadership of Brandeis University President Frederick M. Lawrence, the lawsuit that had been brought against the university to prevent the closing of the Rose was settled. The museum remains open, and no works of art were sold to support university operations.[citation needed] The controversy became the subject of a book by Francine Koslow Miller: Cashing in on Culture: Betraying the Trust at the Rose Art Museum.[18]

October 2011 reopening[edit]

After a brief closing period to undergo major renovations, the Rose Art Museum reopened October 25, 2011. This coincided with the 50th anniversary of the museum, which was also celebrated, including speeches by President Frederick M. Lawrence and artist James Rosenquist.[19][20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Kennedy, Randy and Carol Vogel. "Outcry Over a Plan to Sell Museum’s Holdings." The New York Times, p. C1, NY edition, January 28, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Bencks, Jarret (11 May 2015). "Chris Burden, 'One of the greatest American artists of his generation'". Brandeis University. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  3. ^ "Chris Burden, Light of Reason". Rose Art Museum. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d Bernstein, Gerald S (1999). Building & Campus: An Architectural Celebration of Brandeis University 50th Anniversary. Brandeis University Office of Publications. pp. 34–37. ISBN 0-9620545-1 Check |isbn= value: length (help).
  5. ^ Kramer, Hilton (1968) "Brandeis Retrospective Traces Artist's Short Yet Remarkable Career," The New York Times, November 1, 1968, p. 35
  6. ^ Kramer, Hilton (1969), "An Unlikely Gamble," The New York Times, December 21, 1969, p. 33
  7. ^ Kramer, Hilton, "Art View," The New York Times, June 7, 1981, p D31
  8. ^ Honan, William H (1991), "Brandeis Plan to Sell Art Is Criticized," The New York Times, October 19, 1991, p.13
  9. ^ Hartigan, Patti (1991), "Brandeis sells 11 works at Christie's," The Boston Globe, November 7, 1991. pg. 94
  10. ^ a b Bergeron, Chris. "Brandeis to close Rose Art Museum." The Daily News Tribune, January 27, 2009. Retrieved on 2009-01-27.
  11. ^ Smith, Roberta (February 1, 2009). "In the Closing of Brandeis Museum, a Stark Statement of Priorities". New York Times. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  12. ^ "Letters from the Extended Brandeis Community (and Beyond)". The Rose Art Museum. The Rose Art Museum. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  13. ^ Kennedy, Randy (July 27, 2009). "Lawsuit Seeks to Save Art Museum at Brandeis". New York Times. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  14. ^ Rush, Michael; others (2009). The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis. New York: Abrams. ISBN 978-0810955745.
  15. ^ Lacayo, Richard (Jan 28, 2009). "A Talk With: Michael Rush". Time Entertainment. Time Inc. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  16. ^ Edgers, Geoff (February 14, 2010). "With the Rose Art Museum controversy behind him, Michael Rush moves on". Boston Globe ( Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  17. ^ Guerra, Jennifer. "Michael Rush starts new job as director of MSU's Broad Art Museum". Michigan Radio. Michigan Public Media, The Regents of the University of Michigan. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  18. ^ Koslow Miller, Francine (2012). Cashing in on Culture: Betraying the Trust at the Rose Art Museum. Tucson, AZ: Hol Art Books. ISBN 978-1936102273.
  19. ^ [1]"Rose to reopen, celebrating 50th anniversary, after major rebuild," BrandeisNOW, October 21, 2011
  20. ^ [2]"Rose in bloom: Exhibits trace 50-year history," BrandeisNOW, October 25, 2011

Further reading[edit]

  • Koslow Miller, Francine (2012). Cashing in on Culture: Betraying the Trust at the Rose Art Museum. Tucson, AZ: Hol Art Books. ISBN 978-1936102273.
  • Rush, Michael; others (2009). The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis. New York: Abrams. ISBN 978-0810955745.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°21′56.2″N 71°15′45.2″W / 42.365611°N 71.262556°W / 42.365611; -71.262556