Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Missing Pentagon Art

Last July I wrote a posting on alleged missing Pentagon art and challenged local newshounds to follow the scent of the story. Although the story was picked up nationally by Arts Journal, no one has (to my knowledge) researched this story any further than what was posted here.

Because readers of DC Art News have more than quadrupled since last July, I am re-posting that story below in the hope that some enterprising soul will begin digging into the concerns raised herein:

This article in the Washington Post discusses how "a multimillion-dollar treasure trove of 19th- and 20th-century art has been discovered in basements, boiler rooms, closets and hallways in Philadelphia's cash-strapped public schools."

While the chances of DC area art schools having a hidden art trove is slim to none, let me tell you where I think there's a hidden treasure of artwork - not from the 19th century, but nearly all from 20th century (especially WPA period, and 50s and 60's): The storage buildings where the military's art collection (from the various services and mostly from closed bases all over the world) is "stored."

Not the significant and important art collection on display at the Pentagon, but the stored collection of thousands of works of art that a few years ago were stored in a couple of buildings at Andrews Air Force base. As I recall, there was some sort of investigation that discovered that the Department of Defense had little or no accountability or inventory for many of these works.

Sounds bad, but it is understandable. In fact I would submit impossible to have an inventory of artwork commissioned, donated, gifted, etc. to potentially thousands of U.S. military presences all around the globe in the last two hundred years.

As bases close, often things like artwork find their way back to this area, and they are/were stored at Andrews (at least ten years ago they were... not sure if they are still there). Sometimes they find their way to DLA and the various places where the public can buy anything being disposed of by the DoD (there used to be such as site around Fort Belvoir, Virginia).

But in any event, a DoD employee is/was resposible for maintaining accountability for this art collection, and in the mid 90s she was apparently fired/quit in part because a military Inspector General's team discovered that the works were generally unaccounted for and in many cases improperly stored (leaky buildings, rain, moisture, etc.).

All of these issues I am recalling from memory (I read the story initally in one of those air line magazines), but some things stuck in my head: the number of artworks mentioned in the story as being stored at Andrews (in the 100s of thousands) and the fact that there were many WPA pieces in the storage area, as well as possibly up to six unaccounted Norman Rockwell paintings.

Sounds like a good story for an enterprising Washington City Paper or Washington Post reporter to follow up on, uh? Maybe Teresa Wiltz? or Chris Shott?

I suspect that the accountability problem still exists. In fact I submit that the various services' art curators (each service has an art curator for its own art collection and they all have offices at the Pentagon) do not even have an accurate inventory of the artwork on display at the Pentagon today!

My suspicions were kindled when this story in Art News discussed the fact that US Army curator Renee Klish discussed the fact that four important paintings had been destroyed by the 9/11 attack, but says that eleven other artworks "may have been destroyed."

I am willing to bet that if the Andrews Air Force base artwork storage building still exists, that there are works in there worth hundreds of millions of dollars and maybe still being stored away in improper conditions. I hope I am wrong about the latter.

Update! An alert DCARTNEWS reader also recalls the story I mentioned (published in an air lines magazine in mid 90s) and she even recalled the name of the fired/dismissed/she-quit DoD Art Curator. I have it and will pass it to any enterprising reporters who want to follow up this story - in fact I even have contact info, since I recognized the name as someone still associated with the business of the arts in our area.

Today's Must Read Story

Joe Barbaccia sent me a link to this article in New York Metro and it is absolutely jaw-dropping. Read it here.

Is the child prodigy... a prodigy?

Remember 4-year-old Marla Olmstead, who is being touted as a painting prodigy, and who has gathered a lot of international attention, and whose large abstract paintings are selling as fast as she can finish them -- for as much as $24,000?

Well, it seems that 60 Minutes came a-calling and some issues and questions about this child have been raised.

In this report we find that Ellen Winner, who is a psychologist who has studied gifted children and specializes in visual arts was shown several of Marla’s works and was highly impressed, but noted that she had never seen such a young child working in an abstract manner. Her enthusiasm apparently turned to concern and suspicion when she was shown a videotape of the child painting:

"I saw no evidence that she was a child prodigy in painting. I saw a normal, charming, adorable child painting the way preschool children paint, except that she had a coach that kept her going."
Marla is currently having her first West Coast gallery show. It includes the painting captured on hidden camera by 60 Minutes, which has already been sold for $9,000.

Opportunities for Artists

2005 Photography Annual Competition
Deadline: March 15, 2005.

Sponsored by Communication Arts Magazine, is open to works first printed, produced, or aired for the first time between March 15, 2004 and March 15, 2005. The competition categories include: Advertising, Books, Editorial, For Sale, Institutional, Self-Promotion, and Unpublished. Winning entries will be published in the August 2005 Photography Annual. Entry fees range from $25-$40. For more information, contact:
2005 Photography Annual
Communication Arts
110 Constitution Dr.
Menlo Park, CA 94025

Phone: (650) 326-6040; Fax: (650) 326-1648; or email: shows@commarts.com. Complete guidelines also available online here.

Produce Gallery's "First Year Out"
Deadline: April 15, 2005.

Produce Gallery is currently reviewing work by artists in their first post-graduation year from college, for a group show entitled: "First Year Out," to be held in the Fall of 2005. All submissions should be from artists who have graduated from school in 2003 or 2004. Please send Slides, Resume and SASE, or Web site info to:
Produce Gallery
Tyler Exhibitions
7725 Penrose Avenue
Elkins Park, PA 19027

Woman Made Gallery's "Got Quirk?"
Deadline: March 16, 2005

A juried exhibition sponsored by Woman Made Gallery. Open to all artists, women and men. Seeking representational art works that is expressed in unusual, odd, peculiar, fantastic, grotesque, whimsical, or wacky ways. All media accepted. Entries must have been completed within the last 2 years. Cash awards available. Exhibition scheduled June 24-July 21, 2005. Entry fee: $20 for up to 3 slides. For details, contact:
Woman Made Gallery
2418 W. Bloomingdale Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
Phone: (773) 489-8900; Fax: (773) 489-3600
email: gallery@womanmade.org or visit their website

Radius 250
Deadline: April 30, 2005

Thanks to ANABA for this one. Radius250 is a juried competition that will feature artists working within a 250-mile radius of Richmond. The juror is John Ravenal. You can enter the show via slides or online here. There's a $25 entry fee and $2500 in prizes.

9th Annual Georgetown International Fine Arts Competition
Deadline: June 3, 2005

An opportunity to exhibit in one of the most established DC area fine arts competitions and hosted by our Georgetown gallery. This competition has served in the past as the springboard for many area artists and national artists. Details and prospectus can be downloaded online here or send a SASE to:
Fraser Gallery
1054 31st Street, NW
Washington, DC 20007

NEA Accepting Nominations

The National Endowment for the Arts is accepting nominations of exemplary artists and arts patrons. Deadline is April 11, 2005.

The National Endowment for the Arts is now accepting nominations from the public of exemplary artists and arts patrons for the 2005 National Medal of Arts. To nominate, please go to this website and complete the form.

The deadline for public nominations is April 11, 2005.