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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Rose reopens with new exhibit

Published: July 24, 2009
Section: Front Page

Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum reopened Wednesday following budget cuts in April that halved its staff, temporarily closed its doors and will keep two of its buildings shuttered until September.

The new exhibit, “Numbers, Color and Text: Works from the Collection,” features oil paintings by artist Alfred Jensen.

Jensen donated the artwork to the Rose after it was shown in 1980 as part of the exhibit “Aspects of the ’70s: Mavericks in 1980.”

While the Rose building reopened Wednesday, the museum’s Foster and Lee buildings remain closed to the public, with each wing’s doors locked and marked with a sign reading “This gallery will reopen in the fall. Thank you.”

Exhibit curator and Director of Museum Operations Roy Dawes said those galleries will reopen sometime in September. There is “no specific date yet,” he said, for a grand reopening that will feature a “major exhibit” of the museum’s permanent collection.

On Jan. 26, Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz announced the university’s board of trustees voted to close the museum and sell its artwork to offset the university’s projected $80 million budget gap over the next five years. When the announcement was met with national media coverage, much of its unfavorable, Reinharz changed course and said the board had simply approved the closing, but that the museum would stay open.

Most recently, university Provost Marty Krauss announced the formation of a Future of the Rose Committee to review the museum and its finances and make recommendations to the board in the fall.

In April, Krauss decided the museum would close temporarily on May 17 and reopen on July 22 with an exhibit from the museum’s permanent collection.

While the museum is now open, its staff numbers only three. The Rose will no longer lend out its art, nor will its staff curate exhibits with art from other sources.

The museum’s former director, Michael Rush, who was a vocal critic of the university’s administration in the months following Reinharz’ initial announcement, was not asked to return to work when his contract expired in June.

“My mandate was to just get the museum up and running after we came to a complete stop on Jan. 26,” Dawes said. “We opted to do a small show with high quality thought behind it rather than just put random paintings in all of the buildings with no rhyme or reason.”

The Jensen exhibit has been less well publicized than previous exhibits at the Rose. Usually, the Rose holds a reception on the first day of an exhibit for both art lovers and members of the media; however, there was no reception this week.

A receptionist greeting museum visitors said that roughly 25 people came to the opening day of the exhibit.

Dawes said it is uncommon for no reception to be held in honor of a new exhibit but it has happened in the past.

“We’re taking baby steps here,” he said. “The summer show is an in between phase for us.”

Despite this reopening and the planned grand reopening in the fall, the future of the museum remains uncertain. While the Rose Committee’s charge is to make recommendations to the Board of Trustees, ultimately the decision is left to the board.

The first floor of the Rose building features Jensen’s paintings which incorporate bright colors, numbers and text (hence the name of the exhibit), and are inspired by counting systems of ancient cultures such as Chinese Numerology and Neil Bohr’s theory of electrons.

“The bright colors vibrate and bounce off each other,” museum employee Yael Rooks-Rapport said. “If you want to understand the thought behind it, with using the scientific numbers, you can definitely do that, but if you just want to look at something gorgeous, you can still appreciate the exhibit.”

The lower floor of the Rose building features works by artists who are pioneers in the world of color and in the incorporation of text and numbers into art. For example, Josef Albers’ paintings depict “the concept of discerning between color that is actually presented vis-a-vis color that is perceived,” Dawes said.

The museum will release a catalog of the artwork featured in conjunction with the museum’s grand reopening; however, because the catalog’s publishing schedule has yet to be set, the date of the reopening hasn’t been determined.