Festive gala for friends kicks off Rose celebration

Brandeis welcomes trustees, donors and friends to renovated museum

Photos/Mike Lovett

Adam Weinberg '77, left, talked and joked with pop artist James Rosenquist about his inspirations and motivation.

From left, President Fred Lawrence with Dr. Kathy Lawrence, artist James Rosenquist and donors Sandra and Gerald Fineberg, in front of Rosenquist's "Two 1959 People."

“Welcome to the beginning of the second 50 years of the Rose Art Museum,” President Fred Lawrence said, greeting nearly 200 guests at a festive gala at the Brandeis museum Wednesday night.

The event celebrated the reopening of the museum for its 50th anniversary following a $1.7 million renovation. Thanking the boards of trustees and overseers and donors Gerald and Sandra Fineberg and Lois Foster, he joked that while the footprint of the museum was unchanged by the renovation, it feels larger.

Renovations sometimes give the impression that buildings “hold more than they used to hold and hold more promise than they used to hold,” Lawrence said. “It should be a museum that’s worthy of its collection, and now it is a museum that’s worthy of its collection.”

Guests meandered through the improved building, taking in the debut of three new exhibits – “Art at Origin: The Early ‘60s,” “Collecting Stories” and “Bruce Conner: EVE-RAY-FOREVER (1965/2006)” – before sitting down for dinner and an interview by Whitney Museum of American Art Director Adam Weinberg ’77 of pop artist James Rosenquist, whose painting “Two 1959 People” is among those on display.

Rosenquist, 77, grew up in Minnesota, where he won a scholarship to the Minneapolis School of Art and later studied painting at the University of Minnesota and the Art Students League in New York. He then spent several years painting billboards for a living. In addition to painting, he’s produced prints, drawings and collages throughout his career.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree at Brandeis, Weinberg earned a master’s degree from the Visual Studies Workshop at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Prior to becoming director of the Whitney, he spent several years as director of the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy, Andover. Throughout the 1980s, Weinberg worked at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. 

Before launching into his on-stage interview with James Rosenquist, Weinberg shared his passion for the museum, which he said was central to his Brandeis experience. The museum was meant to “complement and never could be replaced by classroom teaching.”

Instead of answering the first question posed to him, Rosenquist also shared his enthusiasm for the museum.

“I congratulate the Rose on its great comeback,” Rosenquist said, adding that public museums help impart humanism to the community, and especially, to children. “I come back here, and I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of the new space. It’s wonderful that it now exists bigger and better than ever before.”

The interview was informal and entertaining, covering a wide range of topics and memories, eliciting lots of laughter from the guests, who included trustees, donors and other friends of the museum.

Rosenquist told stories about his sources of inspiration, which range from the concept of time to Einstein’s theories to the advent of taxes, to name a few.

Weinberg inquired about his collage work.

“I put together things I don’t understand,” he said, as he and the audience viewed slides of his work that were projected on two screens inside a large tent erected on the lawn in front of the museum for the gala.

“I’m the straight man this evening,” Weinberg noted, joking that Rosenquist’s responses to his questions were a form of verbal collage, as the artist bolted from idea to idea, spinning yarns about the Beat Generation, of which he was part, replete with impressions of fellow artists.

“Every painting has an idea that I can say what it’s about whether you get it or not,” he said.

Weinberg concluded the interview with a quote by Rosenquist: “People ask me why I paint. I don’t know why except that when I don’t paint I get cranky. Maybe I paint to prove to myself that I had an idea.”

A public opening of the Rose will be held tonight from 5 to 8 p.m.

Categories: Arts, General

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