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Suit filed against Brandeis aimed at stopping change of art museum

A lawsuit was filed Monday to stop Brandeis University from turning its Rose Art Museum into a study center, as benefactors say doing so would be against the will of the original donors, reports the LA Times:

As expected, a suit was filed in Massachusetts state court Monday to halt closure of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, as well as to prevent the possible sale of masterpieces by Willem de Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, Bruce Conner, Robert Rauschenberg and other artists in a collection estimated to be worth $350 million. Though the Rose is in good financial shape, Brandeis has struggled in the economic downturn, exacerbated by losses related to the Bernie Madoff pyramid investment scandal.

The suit was filed by three museum overseers: Meryl Rose, a member of the 1961 founding family for whom the museum is named; and benefactors Jonathan O. Lee and Lois Foster, whose name is affixed to a building expansion. The suit says the plan to change the museum into an art-study center contradicts the charitable intentions of the museum’s founders and benefactors.

That’s no surprise. But I wonder: Is a grim precedent at play here? Ever since news of the Brandeis scheme rocked the art world six months ago, the tragic fate of the Barnes Foundation outside Philadelphia has been rumbling around in my head.

Plaintiffs are calling the would-be sale “legal theft.”

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