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The Unreal McCoy: State Senator Calls for Sale of Iowa’s Pollock

Jackson Pollock, “Mural,” 1943, University of Iowa Museum of Art

Yesterday there were rumors that Iowa state legislators were “quietly talking about
ordering the sale” of the University of Iowa’s Jackson Pollock to raise funds for education.

Today, it’s not so quiet. Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register reports:

The [university’s]
famous “Mural” painting is insured for $150 million, but Sen. Matt
McCoy believes it could fetch as much as $200 million to help students
mired in the state’s economic crisis….

McCoy said today that the state must do what it takes to aid students.

the college believes that owning up to a $200 million painting is more
important than keeping tuition low they’ll continue to retain it,”
McCoy said. “If they decide keeping tuition low and helping students
find a job in the toughest economic downturn since the great Depression
is more important, then sell it.”

That sounds like he’s leaving the decision up to the university, which still opposes a sale, according to its president, Sally Mason, as quoted in today’s Register. (Jehuda Reinharz, do you copy?)

But the Unreal McCoy then adds this:

We’re all making sacrifices. I think that
the college really should take a good hard look at that, especially
when they’re up here asking the state for increases in money for
salaries, maintenance, flood repairs.

That sounds like a threat.

Pamela White, director of the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA), released this statement to CultureGrrl:

The Museum of Art has no reason to believe things have changed since the Board of Regents reviewed the Pollock “Mural” in September and closed any discussion of a sale. We are confident that the state legislature and the Board of Regents realize that deaccessioning works of art is a serious issue with serious ramifications, and we would expect them to again seek our expertise should there be serious discussion.

The UI Museum of Art and Jackson Pollock’s “Mural” are an essential component of the University of Iowa’s threefold mission of teaching, research, and public service. To sell this painting would be short-sighted, forsaking long-term gains for a short-term solution.

One of the university’s board members, Michael Gartner, had previously suggested that selling the Pollock could help
defray the cost of recovering from the damage caused by the major June

On a happier note, the collection of the university’s museum, now in storage in Chicago (except for 250 works back on the Iowa City campus), will be temporarily displayed and stored at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, IA.

According to the press release:

The UIMA staff is currently working to finalize plans to install a special exhibition of UIMA masterworks, including the museum’s famous
Jackson Pollock “Mural,” for public viewing at the Figge in April. The
UIMA anticipates this show will travel to the Des Moines Art Center
(DMAC) in fall 2009 and tour nationally beginning in 2010…

…hopefully with the Pollock as its main attraction.

an ArtsJournal blog