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'Bad' art sells for good cause

''Studies in Digestion'' by Deborah Grumet was sold on eBay. ''Studies in Digestion'' by Deborah Grumet was sold on eBay.
By Michele Morgan Bolton
Globe Correspondent / February 15, 2009
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It wasn't exactly Sotheby's, but there was still a celebration at the Museum of Bad Art in Dedham last Sunday, when a four-paneled depiction of a set of intestines sold for $152.53 on eBay.

Proceeds from "Studies in Digestion" were intended to help save the collection at Brandeis University's Rose Art Museum, which the cash-strapped Waltham school was considering dispersingin order to raise money.

That plan to sell off works from by such greats as Andy Warhol and Willem de Kooning provoked a public outcry, however, and was quickly jettisoned.

No matter, said MOBA curator-in-chief Michael Frank, who in his spare time is a balloon artist and musician; the auction was never really about money.

"Almost everyone I spoke to thought it was a terrific way to point out the absurdity of how Brandeis administrators mishandled the situation, turning a financial crisis into a public relations disaster," Frank said.

The winner was Carolyn Forbes, who lives near New York City. In a letter to Frank, Forbes said, "MOBA's philanthropy . . . to benefit a sister institution at a time of great financial distress, is to be applauded."

"Studies in Digestion," by Queens poster artist Deborah Grumet, incorporates the styles of Keith Haring, Georges Seurat, René Magritte, and a Picasso single-line drawing. It also resembles the Loch Ness monster, if it were rising from coiled guts.

Frank originally posted the drawing on eBay with a $10,000 "buy it now" price tag, but that disappeared when the first bid reached all of $24.99.

"This piece received more attention than I expected," Grumet said in her blog http://www.abcs-of-art.com.

She said she originally gave it to MOBA because of its credo as "the world's only museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition, and celebration of bad art in all its forms." The museum is located next to a men's room in the basement of the Dedham Community Theatre.

MOBA originally rejected Grumet's piece, which, she acknowledged, "is probably a good thing." However, she donated it anyway to the Rejection Collection charity auction. And the press coverage didn't hurt either, she wrote.

Though the Rose museum has called off its sale, MOBA decided to donate the money to the SavetheRoseArt.org, and if the museum closes, the money would go to a scholarship fund for Brandeis students.

Frank received a letter from SavetheRoseArt, saying the money would be put to good use.

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at mmbolton1@verizon.net.

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