U.S. News

University to sell paintings to raise money

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Massachusetts university plans to sell an art collection valued at around $350 million to boost revenue, underlining the growing toll of the recession on U.S. schools.

Brandeis University said it will close its art museum and sell the entire 6,000-piece collection, including paintings by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, following a decline in its endowment brought on by the economic crisis.

University trustees voted on Monday to shut down the Rose Art Museum, internationally known for its American artworks from the 1960s and 1970s, at the end of the summer.

Paintings by Jasper Johns, Helen Frankenthaler and Willem de Kooning along with sculptures will go on the auction block this year, university spokesman Dennis Nealon said.

The collection was appraised at $350 million in 2007.

Educators and art experts called it a dramatic illustration of how U.S. colleges and universities are trying to plug financial holes.

“This is an indication of the seriousness with which colleges and universities are examining their financial situations and the ways they may raise revenue to protect their programs,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, a trade group representing educational institutions.

Slumping stock markets have hurt universities for months, but the pain accelerated in the second half of 2008. The average college endowment lost 23 percent in the five months through November, data from Commonfund Institute show.

Even America’s biggest university endowments, run by some of the industry’s savviest investors, suffered. Harvard reported a 22-percent drop, and Yale said it lost 25 percent.

Brandeis, a research university near Boston with a strong liberal arts focus, declined to say how large its endowment is or how much it has lost in the last year.

Editing by Xavier Briand