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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Lawrence taps Wachter ’73 to head Rose board

Published: March 2, 2012
Section: Featured, News

President Frederick Lawrence has appointed George Wachter ’73 the new chair of the Rose Museum’s board of overseers. Wachter is currently the chairman of Sotheby’s North and South America, the world-famous New York auction house.

Wachter is not “entirely sure” what the job entails, he said, as he’s “never done it before.” But he says he is looking forward to the challenge. The plans for the museum are not finalized, nor has Wachter spoken to the other Rose administrators.

William Dawes, director of museum operations at The Rose, said he is pleased that “Mr. Wachter is well-known in the art world and is greatly respected,” and despite having yet to meet the new chair, is looking forward to “working with him to ensure that the Rose can grow into it’s full potential.”

Wachter is an expert in 1800s art and the Old Masters and regularly lectures on the subject. He has been employed at Sotheby’s Old Masters department since his completion of the company’s Works of Art Course and graduation from Brandeis with a degree in art history.

According to Wachter, his cursory, personal plans involve an “invigoration of The Rose.”

The collection’s largely mid-century and contemporary art is one of the “most significant in America,” says Wachter, “and certainly New England.”

He is excited by the eminence of the collection and said the artists featured, which include Warhol, Lichtenstein as well as other popular modernists, “are the names people are interested in.” He bemoaned the lack of student interest in the museum, despite the popularity of the artistic movements today, and believed they would be excited about the resource “if the students understood what was there.”

What former university President Jehuda Reinharz described as a “hidden jewel,” Wachter believes is under-exposed resource to the university. He hopes to bring wider acclaim to the museum, not only among Brandeis’ student body, but the greater Boston and New England area as well.

After the wave of bad press following the attempt to sell pieces of its collection, some have questioned President Lawrence’s appointment of a Sotheby’s employee, the same firm that was to auction off the pieces. Wachter believes he holds an advantage, however, because of his connection to the commercial art world, as do some of his colleagues. “I’m very involved in the art market. I think I can help Brandeis in a clever, creative way.”

The new chair assured that there are no plans to rent parts of the collection, which the university may have briefly been considering. Brandeis and Sotheby’s had been exploring potential long-term loans of the Rose’s artwork, but the period of counsel expired in December 2011, according to Andrew Gully, senior vice present for communications.

While an acquisitions budget does exist, Wachter says, it is very small and there are no plans to expand the collection through purchase. Rather, he hopes to solidify support for The Rose and “strengthen the confidence, which is shaky right now,” so that trustees and donors will contribute more art and general support. The position was previously held by Stephen R. Reiner, a trustee board member who lauded Wachter’s energy for the job, according to BrandeisNOW.

The Rose is still down a director, though a search committee is working to fill the position. The chair position was appointed directly by the president. According to Director of the Arts Scott Edmiston, the search is in “the thick of things right now and at a confidential stage,” but they hope to have “more to share” soon.