Webcast is set for Rose Art Museum discussion


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Can a man who appeared as an animated character on ‘The Simpsons’ be a persuasive voice in a discussion about one of the most calamitous cultural controversies of the day?

My guess would be yes. During his first term as poet laureate of the United States, Robert Pinsky wrote an essay on why ‘The Simpsons’ was his favorite television show. He -- or his cartoon likeness -- ended up appearing in an episode. On Monday night he will be crossing disciplines again, appearing on a panel at Brandeis University outside Boston to discuss the school’s rash decision to close its Rose Art Museum and sell all or part of its collection of Modern and contemporary art.


The symposium, which will be webcast at 6:30 p.m. ET on a live feed, is titled ‘Preserving Trust: Art and the Art Museum Amidst Financial Crisis.’

Among the topics to be considered: Is art the most dispensable and disposable of assets when times are tough? Conversely, might art and museums be understood as especially valuable at moments of economic and social distress, helping to remind a society of its core values? To what extent do institutions of higher education hold art and scientific collections as a ‘sacred trust’ for the public?

Art critics and museum professionals have been vocal in their almost uniform condemnation of the university’s plan, which seeks to monetize a collection that includes masterpieces by De Kooning, Johns, Warhol, Lichtenstein and others to bolster Brandeis’ battered endowment. A town hall meeting at the Rose several weeks ago gave the local community a chance to respond. Monday night, it will be the turn of a high-powered literary crowd.

Among the many prizes awarded to Pinsky are the 2006 Jewish Cultural Achievement Award in Literary Arts and the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Poetry for ‘The Inferno of Dante.’ He will be joined by two other celebrated writers.

Novelist Claire Messud, author of the bestseller ‘The Emperor’s Children,’ is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and Newsweek. Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt, a former UC Berkeley professor now at Harvard, was a progenitor of the ‘New Historicism’ movement in literary criticism that rocked the academic world in the 1980s.

The moderator is Brandeis anthropologist Mark Auslander, who directs the school’s interdisciplinary program in cultural production.


You can watch Monday’s live webcast here. If you miss it -- D’oh!-- it will also be posted on YouTube.

UPDATE: A March 2 snowstorm has forced the postponement of the event. It will be rescheduled.

--Christopher Knight