Posts Tagged ‘politics’

quick hit: pollock for keeps

We had a little (by which I mean “big”) deaccessioning drama play out in Iowa over the last couple weeks. You’d be forgiven for not catching it; this isn’t exactly national news fodder, for all it should be. But I’m telling you about it now.

The University of Iowa has a Jackson Pollock painting. I bet you didn’t know that. Just like the Museum of Modern Art, the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) has a Pollock. And not just a sketch, but a large, important, relatively early painting gifted to the university by Peggy Guggenheim and appropriately titled Mural. It is easily the state’s most famous painting.

After the 2008 flood, which destroyed the art museum, Mural was relocated to the Figge Museum in Davenport, about an hour away. Its house, which is to say, the museum building, has not been rebuilt — the collection is dispersed between the Figge, the Iowa Memorial Union, the Studio Art building, and others — and soon after the waters receded there were calls to sell the Pollock to offset the costs of repairing flood damage. They quickly died down. One wonders what the point of rebuilding an art museum would be, if the Pollock were not inside.

But we don’t have to go anywhere near these philosophical questions, for it is not allowed on purely legal grounds. Peggy Guggenheim plainly donated the painting with the expectation that it be used in teaching, and she wrote that the Pollock should be returned to her, rather than sold, if ever the museum wished to deaccession it. As the UIMA pointed out, if her descendants chose to pursue the matter in court, “We could end up losing the work with no compensation.” Moreover, the American Association of Museums specifies that proceeds from the sale of deaccessioned works can only be put toward acquisitions or direct care of the collection. You can’t sell a painting to pay for a new carpet. You can’t sell a painting to raise salaries, or otherwise cover operational costs. And, it should be abundantly clear, you cannot sell a painting to fund an entirely separate scholarship program.

It should be abundantly clear, yes, but this did not stop State Representative Scott Raecker, Republican (of course*) from proposing a bill that would have forced the university to sell the Pollock to create a trust fund. (*Side note: Yes, it is always Republicans, and yes, I do feel compelled to point this out, if only to draw further attention to the blazing hypocrisy of a political party that crows “small government! no government intrusion!” while somewhere finding the gall to reach into a single art museum and remove a single painting. We saw this on a much larger scale this winter, when the Republican Congress threatened to pull the National Portrait Gallery’s funding over a four-minute video. But I’m sure you remember that mess. So let’s move on.)

The question of funding arts and (not versus) funding scholarships is a challenging and important one, all the more so during trying financial times. But we must ask, again, what is the point of funding art history or studio art students (as the bill would have, sort of) if they don’t have any art to study? The trade-off is so clearly, so blatantly, so horns-blowingly nonsensical, and thankfully other representatives realized this. The Pollock story has a happy ending: the bill died in the legislature after just twelve days. Mural remains safe in its cozy Iowa home.

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what does not happen in iowa

As much as I wax poetic about Iowa City, there are some cheap thrills that simply don’t come with the territory — that come, in fact, only in “Hollywood for Ugly People,” aka Washington, DC. This is one of those stories.

Acqua al 2 is a new (“ehh, about two months?” said the Florentine graphic designer sitting next to us) Italian restaurant near Capitol Hill, one literally lifted up from Florence and plopped into the middle of Eastern Market. Italians abound, from the chef and sous to the couple behind us and aforementioned designer one seat down. Already a place you can trust, no?

My friend Ali (she of Bibiana good taste) suggested it for dinner a couple weeks ago, having already swooned over the first one in Italy. Never one to turn down such a suggestion, I agreed and we reserved for 7:30 on Monday night. When we got there, this happened:

Manager: Ladies, how are you this evening, I hate to tell you this, since we really respect people who reserve, but we’re behind tonight.

N + A: Er . . .

Manager: We’re not going to be able to seat you. The Speaker of the House just called, and she’s on her way over, so . . .

N + A: Ah!

Manager: So would you mind eating at the bar, and having some drinks on the house?

N + A: NOPE! TOTALLY FINE!

(Ali was much cooler than this.)

So we settled into the window corner of the bar, ordered two glasses of Prosecco, and chatted away (with occasional glance thrown over our shoulders). Before any political celebrities arrived, through, this appetizer did: a spaghetti-like tangle of raw fennel with shaved parmesan, pine nuts, and radicchio. Lightly bound together with olive oil, salt, and pepper. It was beautiful and bright, and the PLAY aspect (pasta restaurant! fennel like spaghetti!) just delighted me. I know, I’m an easy sell.

And THEN: Nancy Pelosi showed up! With some senators! It was very exciting. The two black SUV’s pulled up, out came the bodyguards, the advance guard (in that photo up above, see him?) opened the door, and in she swooped! To Ali’s and my formerly -reserved table! At least we know they were going to take care of us.

Not quite as exciting, but very delicious: dinner showed up a few moments later. Mine’s up there, long fusilli in a spicy tomato sauce touched with garlic, pictured above. It was great, but I think I liked Ali’s rigatoni alle melanzane (rigatoni with roasted eggplant – tomato sauce) even better. Mine was a nest of spicy tomato sauce — juust hot enough — but hers had a marvelous, full-bodied savor to it.

We finished everything.

And then Nancy left, stopping by a bench outdoors to chat up an elderly couple and — I am not making this up — fist bumping a guy going in for it. That was pretty sweet. About as amazing as our incredibly light, espresso-cream whirl of tiramisu about which even the Italians around us proclaimed รจ come fa la mamma. I guess Nancy didn’t have any, she was in-and-out so fast: but next time, Madam Speaker, I highly recommend it.