So often we all go to visit the large city-based museums and ignore the smaller museums that dot our own suburban towns. These smaller museums are true gems not to be overlooked. Recently I was at the Rose Art Museum on the campus of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Though I am a graduate of Brandeis, it had been years since I stepped into the Rose, and I was pleasantly surprised at the art hanging on its walls as well as the sophisticated curating of its shows.
The Rose Art Museum, founded in 1961, is now under the very capable direction of Christopher Bedford. Bedford came aboard a few years ago, following an unfortunate decision made by then Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz to sell the art in the Rose Museum (worth about $350 million then) to alleviate the university’s financial troubles. A lawsuit was file by the Rose Art Museum and its supporters to save the museum.
Reinharz ended up leaving, with Fred Lawrence replacing him; Lawrence settled the lawsuit and dismissed the plan to sell the art. Bedford was hired to reinvigorate the museum…and reinvigorate he has done. Bedford was crucial in bringing in the unusual Chris Burden outdoor sculpture that now sits outside of the museum’s main entrance. The sculpture creates a statement and a noticeable entryway to the museum, giving the opportunity for visitors to both walk around and through the work.
But it was what inside the museum that captivated me. The main show I saw was about Helen Frankenthaler’s legacy, and it included pieces that she did as well as artwork by other artists who mentored her or were inspired by her. I was particularly pleased to see the various mediums presented that Frankenthaler dabbled in, including her ungessoed oil paintings and some very large abstract watercolors. Katy Siegal curated this show with thoughtful linkages between the pieces.
The Helen Frankenthaler art show is now over and, in fact, the Rose is closed for the summer before it opens with new shows in the fall, including one I am particularly looking forward to on the Pop Art of the 1960s. When curated well, these smaller museums have a voice in our art scene, and we, as artists, should all be listening.