UI Museum of Art fundraises for conservation of Pollock painting, other museum needs


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Jackson Pollock’s painting Mural at present sits in California, where the Getty Museum is working to conserve the prized piece of modern art.

A bit fewer than 1,800 miles away, the University of Iowa Museum of Art held a fundraiser this past weekend titled, “The New Deal Fundraiser: The Museum Party” at the Coralville Marriott to raise money for the costs of the conservation, along with many other programs at the museum.

“The importance is that it’s our responsibility as a museum to preserve and protect our state’s treasures,” said Sean O’Harrow, the director of the Museum of Art.

The UI Community Credit Union, Willis Law/Security Abstract, and 20 others hosted the fundraiser on March 2. The 1930s nightclub-theme event aimed to raise money for the existing programs at the Museum of Art academic resources, the Senior Living Community outreach programs, and the conservation efforts of the Pollock painting.

Officials were unable to provide the amount raised through the event as of Sunday evening.

The museum is seeking $10,000 to cover costs associated with the conservation project. The Getty Museum is in charge of the conservation effort and is working with the Getty Conservation Institute.
The two-year process began in July 2012.

“We’re conserving it, and we’re stabilizing it,” said Melissa Abraham of the Getty Institute.
The painting is undergoing old varnish removal.

The fundraiser featured UI dance accompanist Dan Knight, who will première an original composition inspired by the piece next month.

Knight, a fan of the painting, said it is an invaluable asset for the university.

“It’s so important because the piece itself is one of the most important pieces of art in the 20th century,” he said. “It will be one of those pieces that in another 200 or 300 years from now, we’ll look at it and recognize the importance of it the way we look at Renaissance art.”

But not everyone has revered the painting as a UI asset the way Knight does.

Former Rep. Scott Raecker, R-Urbandale, proposed a bill in 2011 to sell the painting to fund art scholarships, but he retracted it after receiving criticism from many students and faculty at the UI, the state Board of Regents, and Gov. Terry Branstad.

Following the controversy, the painting entered the conservation project.

“The painting had suffered issues related to age and needed a thorough conservation program, and this was our chance to work with one of the most famous institutions in the world to conserve this very, very famous painting.” O’Harrow said.

Knight praised Mural and its place at the UI.

“I think it’s one of the greatest things ever done for the university and for the state,” he said.

As the painting moves forward in its conservation, the museum also strives to raise funds for a new facility following destruction from the flood in 2008.

“It’s just painful because we don’t have a museum for these pieces,” Knight said. “They’re still raising money to keep the collection together.”

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