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Did Bernie Madoff Sink the Rose Art Museum?

The Daily Beast’s Judith H. Dobrzynski has the exclusive scoop on Brandeis University’s financial crisis, and in an surprising twist of events she’s pointing the finger at none other than Bernie Madoff — at least indirectly.

In case you haven’t been following this tragic story, the short version: Word leaked last week that the cash-strapped university was going to shutter the Rose Art Museum and sell off its entire collection — which is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and contains pieces by Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Morris Louis, Matthew Barney, Cindy Sherman, and Richard Serra among others — to cover their budget shortfall.

Brandeis’s chief operating officer Peter French reveals to Dobrzynski that the decision to ditch the Rose was the only way to sidestep “the prospect of closing 40 percent of the university’s buildings, reducing staff by an additional 30 percent, or firing 200 of its 360 faculty members.” Can you imagine being in the middle of that Solomon sitch?

While the university made an emergency appeal to donors, many of their most generous supporters are also Madoff victims who had lost hundreds of millions of dollars last year. Thus the unprecedented (and possibly illegal) fire sale that’s left a bad taste in many an art world mouth.

The only good news we have to report? According to Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes (who deserve kudos for his dogged reporting of this story), Rose director Michael Rush isn’t going to take this sitting down: “I’m encouraging everybody to take every step they want to take. There are any number of things going on right now. There are Facebook groups, a ‘Save the Rose’ website. And we have several lawyers on the [museum] board who are absolutely looking into legal issues.”

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