CAA News Today

CAA Opposes the Sale of the Iowa Pollock Painting

posted by Christopher Howard — Feb 17, 2011

In response to the possible sale of Jackson Pollock’s Mural (1943) by the University of Iowa and the state legislature, Barbara Nesin, president of the CAA Board of Directors, and Linda Downs, executive director, sent the following letter to editor of the Des Moines Register. While the newspaper did not publish this missive, it did print a letter from Paul B. Jaskot, a professor at DePaul University and CAA president from 2008 to 2010, on February 20. The next day, Jason Clayworth reported that the idea to sell the painting died in legislature.

Letter to the Editor

February 17, 2011

To the Editor
The Des Moines Register

When Peggy Guggenheim donated Jackson Pollock’s “Mural” to the University of Iowa in 1951 she was not donating the cash equivalent of the painting’s value. She was giving the University and the state of Iowa an iconic American painting. The purpose of the gift was to enrich the present and future members of the University community, and to benefit the citizens of Iowa as well as all Americans.

I am writing on behalf of the College Art Association, the nation’s premier visual rights organization, with 16,000 members—artists, art historians, other visual arts professionals and institutions across the country. It would be a major mistake for the Iowa Legislature to pass House Study Bill 84, which would compel the University’s Board of Regents to sell an irreplaceable part of the state’s patrimony.

As teachers, students and arts professionals, we acknowledge the urgent financial situation facing the University, and we note that the bill proposes that any funds earned be used to support scholarships for art majors. Any sale of “Mural,” however, would violate broadly accepted professional museum standards. More importantly, it would rob all Iowans of a remarkable painting, which was intended for them to enjoy and appreciate—in Iowa. We are hopeful that the legislature will reject the bill, to keep the painting in Iowa, where it rightly belongs.


Barbara Nesin, MFA
President, College Art Association

Linda Downs
Executive Director, College Art Association