A filmmaker at the University of Iowa is preparing a documentary about a valuable painting owned by the U-I.
A seven-minute long preview version of Kevin Kelley’s film about Jackson Pollock’s piece called “Mural” was recently released.
The full 30-minute version of the film is slated for completion this spring. In the documentary, Sean O’Harrow – director of the U-I Museum of Art – recalls how the Flood of 2008 forced the evacuation of Mural and other works from the old museum on the Iowa City campus.
“It’s an enormous painting – 20 feet wide, 8 feet tall – and therefore, it couldn’t go just anywhere,” O’Harrow said. “The art was moved to Chicago and then moved back to Iowa to other museums. The Figge Art Museum in Davenport, which I ran at the time, was one of the few places that could accommodate this painting.”
Kelley, who works in the University of Iowa Office of Strategic Communication, has titled his film “Mural: The Story of a Modern Masterpiece.” The oil painting was produced in 1943.
Pollock was commissioned to create Mural by legendary art collector Peggy Guggenheim, who donated the piece to the University of Iowa in 1951.
After the flood, some state lawmakers floated the idea of selling painting to raise money for scholarships. According to U-I Art History professor Joni Kinsey, Mural might be worth as much as $150 million.
“Ultimately, after checking into some things, it was discovered there was a letter from Peggy Guggenheim saying, essentially, if we no longer wanted the picture she would be glad to have it back,” Kinsey said. “So, it is not possible for us to sell the picture. We would have to give it back to the Guggenheim Foundation.”
Pollock’s Mural recently went through a two-year technical study and conservation treatment by research scientists in Los Angeles. The painting was returned to Iowa last summer and is currently on display at the Sioux City Art Center.
Al Harris-Fernandez is the center’s director. “I called Sean (O’Harrow) and said why don’t we plan to have it come by the Sioux City Art Center the way back to its home base,” Harris-Fernandez states in the film.
Sioux City will host the painting until April, when the artwork will make a transatlantic journey, stopping in numerous cities before making its way to the new University of Iowa Museum of Art.