Brauer Museum Closes Amid Controversial Plans to Deaccession O’Keeffe Painting

Brauer Museum Closes Amid Controversial Plans to Deaccession O’Keeffe Painting

Indiana’s Valparaiso University has closed its Brauer Museum of Art and dismissed its director, Jonathan Canning, amid a controversy over plans to sell key works of art from its collection.

The moves were announced late last week by Valparaiso University as part of an “administrative restructuring” meant to address the school’s declining enrollment and growing operations deficit, which is currently $9 million.

The university drew criticism last year after announcing it would sell three of the museum’s most valuable paintings worth more than $20 million in order to fund renovations of freshman dormitories.

One of the works the university wants to sell, Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting Rust Red Hills (1930), was the second work the Brauer ever acquired. The university said it was worth about $15 million, making it the most valuable of the three pieces. Frederic Edwin Church’s Mountain Landscape was valued at $2 million, and Childe Hassam’s Silver Vale and the Golden Gate was valued at $3.5 million.

News of the proposed sale prompted condemnation from the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors A suit was filed against Valparaiso University to delay the sale, with former museum director Richard Brauer and former VU law professor Philipp Brockington arguing that the plan violated the terms of the original gift agreement between the academic institution and Percy H. Sloan. Sloan donated the Church artwork and established the acquisition fund used to buy the works by Hassam and O’Keeffe in the 1960s.

Valparaiso University wrote in a court petition that the three artworks have become too valuable for it to keep safe, citing climate protests that involved the Mona Lisa earlier this year. The university estimated that security upgrades would cost between $50,000 to $100,000 and said that the professional guards, not students, would add $150,000 to the art museum’s annual staffing expenses. The university also argued that storage fees for the paintings were wasteful due the school’s current financial status.

The museum’s closure was a surprise to the local community after the opening of “America the Beautiful,” a summer exhibition of Impressionist paintings from the Brauer’s permanent collection, according to Art Daily, which first reported the news.

In addition to the closure of the Brauer Museum, Valparaiso University is also considering the closure of up to 30 academic programs, including German, theology, philosophy, and music performance.

The post “Brauer Museum Closes Amid Controversial Plans to Deaccession O’Keeffe Painting” by Karen K. Ho was published on 06/28/2024 by