The painting “Mural” by Jackson Pollock was donated to the University of Iowa in 1951 and in recent years, a Republican lawmaker and a member of the Board of Regents suggested the school sell the painting to fund scholarships or pay for flood repairs.
The oil on canvas painting has been valued as high as $150 million. University of Iowa Museum of Art executive director Sean O’Harrow says the decision to send Mural to California for two years has nothing to do with keeping the painting out of the hands of those who’d like to liquidate it.
“To have the greatest conservation team in the world work on this – which is also sponsoring this – is an opportunity that would be too good to pass up,” O’Harrow said. “So, the politicians are kind of not part of this consideration.”
Experts at the Getty Conservation Institute will work on restoring Mural to pristine condition. The giant oil painting was produced in 1943 and it’s been decades since it’s received any treatment. “At the moment, it has a layer of varnish on it – which it never had originally and that needs to be removed,” O’Harrow said.
“You can imagine a painting that’s 20-feet wide and 8-feet tall, it’s going to take some time to do that.” The conservation work is expected to take up to 21 months, then Mural will be on display at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles for another three months. Around one-million people visit the Getty Museum annually.
“This is going to be one of the largest audiences that this Iowa painting has ever seen,” O’Harrow said. “I think a lot of people will have a different view of Iowa after seeing this painting and seeing that we have museums and cultural institutions that compete on a global basis.”
Mural is currently on display at the Des Moines Art Center through July 15. It’s widely recognized as a watershed piece for Pollock, who is credited with inspiring the Abstract Expressionist movement of the mid 20th century. Mural is considered by many to be the most significant and influential painting in American art since World War II.
Pollock was commissioned to create Mural by legendary art collector Peggy Guggenheim, who donated the piece to the University of Iowa.