No Cosmopolitanism in Iowa?


There has been a surprising amount of uproar over the University of Iowa considering deacessioning this work, Jackson Pollock’s Mural. Tyler Green and Lee Rosenbaum have both weighed in, both fairly critical of the potential sale. I can see their point, these works develop a presence in a way, and people have a relationship with a work of art that continues to bring them back to an art museum. However, circumstances change, and there are some very good reasons for considering the sale or partial transfer of a work of art. I tend to agree with Donn Zaretsky on this when he says:

I know I seem to lack the deaccessioning-outrage gene, but my first reaction to hearing about a possible deal with the DMAC is, “What’s so bad about that?” If $100 million or so could go to the University to help it deal with its flood-related problems, with the Pollock moving a mere 115 miles down the road (plus a promise to “allow UIMA to show the painting occasionally”), how exactly does that amount to a catastrophe?

Indeed, there may not be anything wrong with such a decision, and we can’t know what artists or benefactors would have wanted these museums to do with these works when confronted with serious financial pressures. However I find it very interesting that many of the calls for anti-deaccessioning are very contrary to the kind of art cosmopolitanism and sharing of art and culture that many have advocated, notably James Cuno.

In theory the idea of sharing art and culture is a very good idea, but there are always complications, and in the end local communities, arts patrons, and even large nations want to keep their art. People don’t like to see beautiful works leave, especially under bad circumstances — like they may not be protected from looters adequately, or people are breaking the law, or a catastrophic flood has forced them to.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

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