Will Iowa Send a $140 Million Jackson Pollock To The Auction Block?
Will Iowa's 2008 floods end up washing away on of the state's prized works of art? The Daily Iowan reports that legislators introduced a bill in the Iowa House Wednesday to compel the University of Iowa to sell its famous Jackson Pollock painting, Mural, and use the revenue for scholarship assistance. The painting hung in the UI Museum of Art but has been in Davenport and Chicago since the 2008 floods. Mural is considered to be one of the most important modern Ameircan paintings. In the 1940s the UI School of Art and Art History was one of the most innovative studio arts programs. Pollock patron and art dealer Peggy Guggenheim gave the Mural to the University in 1951. It is valued at $140 million.
Representative Nick Wagner described the move as an "out-of-the box option" to try and avoid a tuition increase. Regent Michael Gartner had suggested selling the painting in 2008 to offset the cost of the floods but University president Sally Mason thought it was important to keep the painting. It's remained a subject of controversy since then, and as you might imagine, arts professors are aghast at the idea. The painting is part of the UI's 12,000 piece collection.
Many feel that the sale will never happen but as we saw with the case of Fisk University in Tennessee, a university in need of funding will do whatever it needs to stay afloat. In that case an ownership stake of the Stieglitz art collection donated by painter Georgia O'Keeffe was sold to the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas. The museum being created by Walmart heiress Alice Walton paid $30 million for one-half interest in the collection. The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Massachusetts has entered into a loan program in order to raise funds. But in both these cases multiple works were at stake. This time the issue is a single, monumental piece making a loan situation a bit more problematic.
UPDATE: A House Subcommittee has approved the proposal and it now moves to the full House Appropriations Committee. The bill is expected to find favor with the Republican-controlled House but not with the Democratic-controlled Senate.