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After Plans To Sell Off A O’Keeffe, Brauer Museums Gets Closed

The decision to close the Brauer Museum of Art was announced by its parent, Valparaiso University, after a controversial plan to sell off paintings in its collection.

The announcement came last week when the Indiana-based Valparaiso University outlined its plans for ‘administrative restructuring’. The core of the announcement was to combat the financial deficit faced by the university, which has now reached $9 million. As part of the decision, Brauer Museum’s director Jonathan Canning was also fired.

Earlier this year, the university devised a plan to sell off some of the paintings from the collection of the Brauer Museum to deal with the budget deficit. Three paintings were already chosen for this purpose, worth a total of more than $20 million. The most important of these was the painting ‘Red Rust Hills’ (1930) by Georgia O’Keeffe, which alone is worth $15 million in the market. This was the second-ever painting acquired by the Brauer Museum, which opened in 1996. The other paintings to be sold were Childe Hassam’s Silver Vale and the Golden Gate (estimated at $3.5 million) and Frederic Edwin Church’s Mountain Landscape (valued at $2 million).

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The plan was immediately met with criticism from all quarters. Apart from social media, the university faced outrage from the Association of Art Museum Directors and the American Alliance of Museums. There were legal objections as well; the Church artwork was donated by Percy H. Sloan which further helped the museum acquire the other two works. A suit was filed arguing that the sale would violate the terms of that donation. In response, Valparaiso University argued in court that it was unable to afford the safeguarding of the three paintings. The university claimed that given the climate activism attacks on museums, security could cost an additional $100,000-$150,000 per year.