A Watery World at the Rose

New exhibitions and new initiatives brighten the future for Brandeis’ landmark Rose Art Museum as it heads toward its 50th anniversary.

View of Barred Islands
View of Barred Islands

1970, Fairfield Porter (1907-1975). Oil on canvas. Herbert W. Plimpton Collection.

As students settled in on campus this fall, the Rose Art Museum was putting the finishing touches on two exhibitions that opened in early October.

The first, “WaterWays,” explores art that celebrates water as subject, metaphor and muse. William Kentridge’s video “Tide Table” is a centerpiece of the show, which features works from the traditional to the conceptual by a lineup of artists that includes John Marin, Milton Avery, Fairfield Porter, Annette Lemieux and Sally Mann. “WaterWays” will continue in the Rose and Lee galleries through late 2010.

The second show, appearing in the Foster Gallery through the academic year, is titled “Regarding Painting.” Drawing from the Rose’s permanent collection, the exhibition spans the last century. It features a number of works long in storage as well as some of the collection’s most renowned works, including paintings by Roy Lichtenstein, Natalie Frank, Roxy Paine, Juan Gris, Audrey Flack, Willem de Kooning and Agnes Martin.

Following last year's highly acclaimed exhibition of selections from the permanent collection, these shows continue a welcome return to normalcy for the Rose. The museum has been at the center of controversy since the Board of Trustees voted in January 2009, during the economic downturn, to allow the option of selling works from the museum. The Board subsequently affirmed the two key recommendations of the Future of the Rose Committee:  that the Rose would remain a university art museum open to the public, and that it would be better integrated into the academic mission of the university.

Over the summer, the university announced it was working with New York art house Sotheby’s to seek non-sale options for realizing value from the collection. Even some of the university’s critics embraced that idea as a reasonable strategy, far preferable to an outright sale.

In recent decades, museums around the world have entered into leasing and lending partnerships with other institutions. In 1999, during a period of financial constraint, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston forged a relationship with the Nagoya Museum in Japan. According to a New York Times report, the MFA agreed to share some of its collection with the institution in return for $50 million in payments over the 20-year life of the agreement. Another partnership arrangement links Atlanta’s High Museum with the Louvre in Paris.

The Rose also has seen the arrival of several new staff members in recent months. Dabney Hailey joined in August as the museum’s first academic program director; she previously worked at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. She arrived shortly after Collections Manager Kristen Parker, formerly of the 
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. 

The closer marriage of collection and curriculum, says Director of Museum Operations Roy Dawes, will strengthen relationships with faculty members, encouraging them to teach courses in the museum, bring classes to exhibitions and incorporate artwork into written assignments.

The Rose also hopes to welcome a new director soon. President Jehuda Reinharz announced in late September that a search committee would begin work on recruiting a director of the museum, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2011.

comments powered by Disqus