Pollock Furor

Yesterday at a Board of Regents meeting (this board is appointed by the governor to oversee the state-run universities -- UI, ISU, UNI), Regent Michael Gartner requested a study of the worth of the UIMA's famed Jackson Pollock Mural, below. The Iowa City Press-Citizen broke the story, and Pam White, the UIMA interim director, director of the Pentacrest Museums, a lawyer who teaches the class "Art Law and Ethics," and head of Museum Studies at the UI, spent the better part of her afternoon talking to other members of the local press to explain some of the very complicated issues surrounding such a decision. If you haven't seen the stories from today's paper, you might want to check them out: Des Moines Register, The Gazette, Corridorbuzz.com.

We've also gotten quite a bit of attention nationally. There was an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, and two quite prominent arts bloggers are on the case: Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes, and Lee Rosenbaum of the Culture Grrl blog. (You might remember Tyler Green from his interview right after the flood with Pam. Lee Rosenbaum has written extensively about other museum's struggles to hold on to their collections.)

This news comes right on the heels of a great article on the rescuing of the Pollock by Michael Judge in the Wall Street Journal a little over a week ago.

If you are interested, the American Association of Museums has guidelines for museum ethics, standards and best practices, and a list of accredited museums on its website. (The UIMA would lose its accreditation if the Pollock was sold to pay for flood damages.)

We're curious to hear what you think about this issue. Post a comment (instructions here) and let us know, eh?


darrell wahlstrom said...

I could be rolling in my grave if I was not still alive hearing the ridiculous statement about selling this history orientated piece of abstract work.
Jackson Pollock was a true painter with a new set of rules and inspiration to be inspired to do this tremendous work. Have you studied the history on this piece of work? If you havent you should.
I was so touched when this beautiful piece of work was put out for display. I am a painter---dogs, geese, corn?---No I love abstract work with the true soul giving and mind setted attachment of your feelings being relished upon the canvas to give of your thoughts and procedures of your life as a painter and a civilian of so many negatives and some positives in your life.
Where is this Gardner from? Must not know what a piece of exquisite art is all about. Selling this piece of Pollock art would be like selling your---you know there is nothing that could even come close to that problem of selling the Pollock piece.
I have been down there so many times and sat in the beloved chair and looked with integrity of his paint splattering, his corners and circles of design. I love abstract art as it can mean so many things to so many different people.
Do not ever sell this remarkable piece of art from the U of I campus. It is highly special and gives alot of insight to art and all the possibilities that can be accomplished. This piece of art has a history that can not be remade. History is important---that it has to stay and be an inspiring piece of history on the U of I campus.

Kristin said...

As a current Art History major at Iowa- and someone who took Art Law and Ethics with Pam- this absolutely breaks my heart. I don't understand why this even an option when the ethics are very clear: proceeds from the sale would only be available for more aquisitions- not for rebuilding the campus. I feel like the public is greatly misinformed on this issue, and they do not understand just how greatly this will affect the museum and the art school. I hope the museum keeps students informed on what they can do to fight this.

donald.baxter said...

I have come up with a fundraising idea to help with a new museum--the Pollock license plate to support a new UIMA: You can see this on the Press Citizen's blog:

http://snurl.com/3egt6 [www_press-citizen_com]

Rarely does something I write on that blog get 32 recommendations and stay hovering on the most read item for four days. Maybe this is a good idea.

jeffrey hughes said...

As an alumnus of the School of Art and Art History (MA '84, PhD '88) I have been following the on-going developments of the devastating flood with great interest and concern. My family and I visited the "site" of the arts campus two weeks ago. It has been, and I am sure continues to be a Herculean effort physically, emotionally and monetarily to clean/restore the buildings affected. However, I was shocked to read of the myopic consideration to sell Pollock's "Mural." It is without question one of the three or four most important paintings of the twentieth century, and quite arguably the most significant work of the artist's oeuvre. That it is owned by a university collection is in itself remarkable. That UI has the piece rather than the originally intended Yale collection, or perhaps more reasonably Harvard is amazing. It would make some sense for "Mural" to hang in MoMA or the Met, but to sell the painting also would drastically risk the possibility of this major work of mid-century American art leaving this country. University of Iowa students have been the lucky recipients of Peggy Guggenheim's gift for decades. It is part of the legacy of the donor that the work should remain at the University of Iowa.

On a personal note, I continue to mention in my own art history classes, how as a TA it was possible standing in front of this incredible monument, to show students the arc of Pollock's gesture, an autobiographical stroke and record of time and creating. Viewing this painting is an aesthetic experience of physical and psychic immediacy that can't be replicated in any other manner, nor by virtually any other abstract expressionist painting. Of course, that's the primary consideration as many scholars would argue that "Mural" is literally the first abstract expressionist painting, the first example of "all-over" composition.

And even more personally, my son's name is Jackson - my career long appreciation for his namesake Jackson Pollock having been instigated while at University of Iowa. Selling this painting would be a monumental loss to the university, there likely will never be such an important work placed in a public university's collection again.