As the museum world continues to struggle to keep afloat with lower attendance and much fewer endowments, we’ve seen the idea of selling pieces from collections become a more appealing idea within museum administrations, much to the disdain of many. But sometimes the whole thing happens much more quickly than just flirting with the idea or selling off a piece here and there for a little extra working capital. Such is the case at Brandeis University‘s Rose Art Museum who surprised nearly everyone by suddenly deciding to close their doors and sell off their entire collection immediately. The university’s president and its trustees were the only ones who knew about the closure and sale, which shocked the museum’s board, its director, and the staff, who are all now furious about the decision. And now, due to outcry and the unprecedented action taken by the university’s leadership, the Massachusetts attorney general’s office has decided to investigate:
Emily LaGrassa, director of communications for the state attorney general, Martha Coakley, said that Brandeis had informed the office on Monday of its decision, but had not consulted with the attorney general in advance. The attorney general has approval powers over certain actions of nonprofit institutions in the state.
Ms. LaGrassa said that in the case of Brandeis, the attorney general would review wills and agreements made between the museum and the estates of donors to determine if selling artworks violated the terms of donations. “We have not yet offered any opinion on any aspect of the proposed sales,” she said, adding, “We do expect this to be a lengthy process.”