Iowa Can’t Sell Painting to Generate Money

Mural2.jpg

The University of Iowa will not be selling its $150 million Jackson Pollock painting, useful as that massive infusion of cash might have been to the school.

Like many colleges Iowa, faced with a declining endowment this year, considered whether or not it might be a good idea to sell off some of its art collection to raise some money for the school.

Peggy Guggenheim gave Pollock’s 1944 painting, “Mural” (right) to Iowa in 1951. She thought it was worth a few thousand dollars.

It turned out to be worth a great deal more. Iowa legislator Scott Raecker proposed a bill to force the university to sell the painting, in the hopes of creating a fund to pay for scholarships.

According to an article by Jason Clayworth in the Des Moines Register:

The idea to force the University of Iowa to sell its… painting has officially died in the legislature.

The reason: The issue has become so cumbersomely emotional that reaching consensus is unlikely, the legislator pushing for the sale said today. Raecker has received numerous e-mails and calls from people with strong opinions on both sides of the issue and some of them have involved profanity and ill wishes towards his next reelection campaign.

John Pappajohn, a well-known Des Moines Philanthropist who has given about $40 million to the university publicly criticized the idea last week. And, on Monday Morning, Gov. Terry Branstad expressed his opposition to the idea, saying it could have a chilling affect upon private donations.

When the university considered selling the painting in 1963, Guggenheim wrote the president angrily, saying, “It is extremely unpleasant for me that you should sell my gift. If you no longer wish to have this mural in your university, I must ask you to return it to me.”

In the last two years the legislature has cut funding for Iowa public colleges by 20 percent. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer