Brauer Museum

In an email to the campus community on Feb. 8, President José Padilla announced an update in the University’s pursuit of its five-year Strategic Plan. As part of the plan, a project is in the works to update the current freshman residence halls into a first-year, residential complex. The goal of this project is to improve the quality of the first year and residential experience, as well as increase revenue for the university. These changes are intended to provide the amenities desired by incoming students and their families.

“We intend to pay for this initiative through a practice we will use for other parts of the strategic plan. We will consider assets and resources that are not core or critical to our educational mission and strategic plan, and reallocate them to support the plan,” Padilla stated in the email. 

In this case, funding will be sourced from the sale of art works, currently part of the Brauer Museum of Art’s collection. In Oct. 2022, the Board of Directors permitted Padilla the authority to sell paintings, though no official sale has been completed as of yet. 

In an article published in the Chicago Tribune, also on Feb. 8, the Brauer Museum’s namesake and first director, Richard Brauer, stated that if the painting sales were to go through, he would have his name and association removed from the museum. 

In advance of releasing this information to the community, art brokerage firms Christie’s and Sotheby’s visited the museum to inspect the works. One of these occurred during the time, but without the knowledge, of the committee who selected the Brauer’s current director, Jonathan Canning. Canning began his position in August 2022.

The three works up for sale, according to the Tribune’s article, are Georgia O’Keefe’s “Rust Red Hills,” Frederic E. Church’s “Mountain Landscape” and Childe Hassam’s “The Silver Vale and the Golden Gate.” The paintings were previously valued at $15 million, $2 million and $3.5 million, respectively. “Rust Red Hills” was the second painting Brauer advocated for the purchase of, joining Valparaiso’s collection in 1962. 

Padilla emphasized that proceeds will be used for the benefit of students and not paid towards any of the University’s operating expenses. 

Both Brauer and senior research professor John Ruff informed the Tribune that selling the works would go against the 1953 Sloan Trust Agreement that allowed their purchase and defy the Association of Art Museum Directors’ requirements, which mandates that any profits from sales must go towards the purchase of other pieces. 

The two are also concerned that the sales will hurt the Brauer’s reciprocal trade agreements as well as lead to backlash from current donors to the university. 

President Padilla has invited those with questions or concerns to contact his office at

The Torch has reached out to Padilla for comment.

This is a developing story. The Torch will update this story as more information becomes available. 

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