Growing the Endowment

I just sent a variant of this post off to many of my graduate students but I wanted to reach a somewhat wider audience.

Benjamins for Collections

Yesterday Randolph College announced that finally (after 6 years) it has sold George Bellow’s “Men at the Docks” for 25 million plus dollars.  The money is headed for the college endowment.  The painting is headed to London’s National Gallery.

An article from Inside Higher Ed includes the following statement:

[Randolph College] “..’is a college, not a museum,’ and has no obligation to abide by the guidelines of organizations that focus on academic or non-academic museums and galleries.

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-national-gallery-george-bellows-painting-20140207,0,5046447.story

This issue isn’t black and white, admittedly the sale has allowed Randolph College to increase their endowment, and to form a partnership for Randolph College students with the National Gallery in London.  Survival of the college, better recognition and bigger audiences for this work of art, check.  And the Bellows is headed to an institution that appreciates it and can presumably take better care of it. That’s all good, isn’t it?There is now a high profile precedent for colleges and universities to cite when contemplating the monetization of collections. Their partner in the process is not a private collector but a major public institution.  Here are the bullet points I’m thinking about this morning.

  • Does this mean that we can expect to see significant works of art move from small institutions to collections and private collections with the wherewithal to capture them?
  • Will the 21st century be the century in which collections are remixed and remade?
  • How liberating for other college presidents faced with financial difficulties is the assertion [we are under] “no obligation to abide by the guidelines of organizations that focus on academic or non-academic museums and galleries.
  • How will the “organizations that focus on academic or non-academic museums and galleries” respond to the challenge?
There was a major earthquake in academic museums yesterday.  Expect aftershocks.

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