Friday, December 15, 2006

Art that cities would love to own

My earlier post on art that "belongs" to cities as "The Gross Clinic" belongs to Philly spawns the opposite train of thought (and an interesting one at that!): Art that cities would love to own!

Here's what New Orleans would love to own.

Eakins: Not the first time?

As we've discussed before, the potential exodus from Philly of Thomas Eakins' "The Gross Clinic" has fired up Philadelphians to an enviable level, and efforts continue to keep the work of art in the city.

The Sixth Square has been keeping up a daily info blitzkrieg on the issue, and this post has a gem:

We’ve always heard talk of earlier attempts to pry The Gross Clinic from its moorings at Jefferson, but we never knew any detail. Then we ran across an old, yellowed clipping.

On March 25, 1976, Adrian Lee of The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin wrote that Jefferson had rejected a $1 million offer for the painting in 1969. But he had a more dramatic number to report. Lee had gotten wind of a new offer: $30 million building in exchange for the painting. After “two stormy, back to back meetings,” in December 1975 and January 1976, Jefferson held a “secret vote.” Sixty eight voted to keep the painting. Only seven voted to sell it.

Who was this would-be buyer? Both times it was no less than Paul Mellon, trustee of the National Galley of Art in Washington, D.C. — the very same institution today teamed up with Crystal Bridges.
Read the entire post here.

Leads me to wonder if there are paintings (or other visual artworks) that are so rooted into a city's psyche and/or history, that they could become that city's own Eakins in the event that they were to be removed and exported to another city?

Hopper's Nighthawks in Chicago? Leonardo's Mona Lisa in Paris? Picasso's Guernica or Velazquez's Las Meninas in Madrid?

Old timers will recall the many years that Picasso's "Guernica" hung in New York City, as Picasso didn't want it to be in a Spanish museum while Franco was alive. When the Generalisimo died (and yes SNL freaks, he's still dead), eventually the masterpiece made its way to Madrid, but not without some angst from New Yorkers.

And in Scotland, a few years ago there was a mini revolution of sorts, as Scottish villagers fought to have the original Pictish standing stones in their villages returned to their fields. Many of the original stones had been removed in order to protect them from the elements and replaced with replicas, while the originals went on display in museums. The villagers then realized that they were losing tourists who wanted to visit the stones, and many villages sued the museums to have the Pictish stones returned to them.

Which leads me to wonder why there has never been an exhibition of Pictish art and sculpture outside of Scotland, and why the National Geographic has never done a single article on Pictish culture - a people who only ruled northern Britain for two thousand years!

Oh oh... I see a new pet peeve brewing...