Should the U of I sell its Jackson Pollock mural?

I don’t know what to think about this story from today’s Des Moines Register:

Regent Michael Gartner of Des Moines proposed studying the potential sale of the U of I’s “Mural” as a way to pay for $16 million in damage from June’s record floodwaters that entrenched the arts campus next to the Iowa River. The entire campus has an estimated $232 million in flood damage.

The Iowa Board of Regents decided at its meeting Thursday to research how much the 8-by-20-foot abstract painting would fetch if sold to a museum.

The piece is a prized painting for the university’s museum, acquired nearly 60 years ago when it was not nearly worth its estimated $100 million in value today. The idea of selling it brought strong sentiments from the U of I president, the art community and a state leader about the value of art and why it matters for universities to hold onto such treasures.

Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, who heads the Rebuild Iowa Office to recover from the flood, said there are options for paying for recovery besides selling artwork.

“I think selling off our assets that we probably could never purchase again would not be something I would like to see happen,” Judge said Thursday. “I would like to think we would rebuild that art center, that that painting along with the other great paintings will be hanging there for my grandkids to see, just like I did and just like my children did.”

The rest of the article goes through a lot of the pros and cons of selling this painting. My instinctive reaction is that it would be wrong to get rid of this irreplaceable piece.

On the other hand, the flood damage to the University of Iowa campus and the arts area in particular was so extensive that maybe this sale is justified. I don’t know how much of the reconstruction will be covered by insurance.

What do you think?

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