In response to my previous post outlining the details around a story developing about the University of Iowa’s possible deaccession of Jackson Pollock’s Mural to cover flood damages an anonymous commenter had this valuable information to add:
…I did my Master's at the U of Iowa and so I have a serviceable insider's take on Mural's ontology. As the hearsay goes, the work originally was handled poorly by the museum. I think it came to Iowa via Pollock's Visiting Artist stay in the 40's, but from what the Museum workers said, it pretty much sat in a closet rolled up on the floor. This allegedly prompted Peggy Guggenheim to attempt to get it back, some saying there was an attempt to steal it back. Pearls before swine kinda thing, I guess, as the rolled canvas laid against a Motherwell, also kept in the closet, a long closet.
My opinion is that selling it to a MOCA or MOMA might not be a bad thing. The question comes down to who benefits from the work. The students in painting tend to be figurative and conservative who often dismissed Mural as poorly painted. Motherwell's comment that the painting took Pollock 10 hours to paint was a source of derision, although it's doubtful it was done in only 10 hours. Moreover, the traffic of spectators in the Museum is small, the usual public school kids, occasional art students and openings. Since most people go home for the weak ends, the Museum dies during that time. Placing the work in NY, LA or DC would obviously increase its viewing. The downside to the Iowa Museum, the other works of similar vintage, a fabulous, huge pre-Duco DeKooning woman, a classic all black Rheinhardt and a Joan Mitchel would all be candidates for sale and stick out like sore thumbs. So while Tyler Green's citation of collusion has merit, the outcome might not be so bad.
To add to the Museum's flood damage, I chanced into an art history major at Girl Talk at Lollapalooza who told me the new art building either has been condemned or has to be abandoned for students due to flood damage. This is the one which won all kinds of architectural awards for design and greeness, and was only a year old. This might add to the mix if the Museum is under the control of the Art & Art History Dept. and they desperately need new money.
The issue of museum foot traffic can pretty easily be countered with the argument that people should have access to good art no matter where they are. However, if the work in question isn’t very good or of value to its patrons then these issues need to be considered by everyone involved.
Also see: Art Law Blog