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Legislators: Pollock bill not likely to pass

BY ARIANA WITT | FEBRUARY 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa legislators agree that a proposed bill to force the University of Iowa’s Museum of Art to sell a multimillion-dollar Jackson Pollock painting is not likely to be passed into law.

Some think the bill won’t even make it out of the House.

“I don’t know that the public good is served by selling a painting that was donated to the university,” said Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, who said he doesn’t think it will pass the House. “And I think it’s just a roundabout way to get the to honest discussion of funding the regent institutions.”

But Rep. Steven Lukan, R-New Vienna, said he thinks the bill will make it to the Senate, though he said he hasn’t formed an opinion on the issue of selling the $140 million piece.

Peggy Guggenheim donated Pollock’s Mural to the UI in 1951. The painting was moved from the Museum of Art because of the 2008 flood and is now housed at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport.

Rep. Scott Raecker, R-Urbandale, proposed Feb. 9 that the Museum of Art be forced to sell the painting in order to fund 1,000 scholarships for UI arts students.

Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, said he believes it is a “horrible public-policy idea, likely to have a chilling effect on the university’s art relations.”

Though the bill is in the early stages with the House Appropriations Committee, nationally, those in the art world have openly opposed the possibility of it being passed.

Henry Adams, a professor of art history at the Case Western Reserve University, wrote several books about Pollock’s work. He said Mural is considered the piece that made Pollock the “best painter in the world.”

“I find it difficult to say to what the value of any piece of art would be,” Adams said. “This one is obviously priceless.”

Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said he doesn’t think the bill will get far in the Senate.

“The whole thing sends the wrong message on behalf of legislators,” Dvorsky said. “We’d be getting rid of a very big symbol of art and culture at the university.”

John Scott, the director of the UI School of Art and Art History, said the art-scholarship program has room for expansion, but he doesn’t think it should come at the expense of the Mural.

“It’s an invaluable educational resource,” he said. “It’s not something that’s independent of art education and the school; it’s integral to it.”

If UI officials were to sell the painting because of the potential legislation, they would violate ethical guidelines held by the American Association of Museums, said Dewey Blanton, director of strategic communications for the organizations, because any such revenue is to only be used to buy more art.

The UI’s own policy on selling artwork says money made must go toward more art, said chief museum curator Kathleen Edwards.

The collections policy also states all sales must comply with local, state, and U.S. federal laws as well as university regulations.

Still, a violation of ethical guidelines, Blanton said, could lead to a loss of accreditation by the UI and dissuade potential art donors.

“Who wants to give a Van Gogh if next week it could be on the auction block?” he said.


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