Jackson Pollock's "Mural" painting. Photo courtesy www.Thegazette.com

Evaluated at up to $150 million in 2008, Jackson Pollock's "Mural" is the centerpiece of a heated debate in Iowa where state legislators want it sold by the University of Iowa's Art Museum, which owns the 20 ft. long abstract painting.

Some want the possible sale proceeds used for scholarships at the University.

Either way, the proposal has infuriated art supporters and museum officials. The American Association of Museums announced that if the sale occurs, the association will rescind accreditation of the University of Iowa's Art Museum. Accreditation is an important certification of the museum's credibility to donors, funders and the public. Removing it would be a huge black-mark to Iowa's national cultural standing.

The Association of Art Museum Directors warned that other museums would refuse to loan art or exhibitions to the Iowa museum if the sale goes forward. Officials at the Iowa museum fret that future art donations would stop as collectors figure that their gifts could be sold off whenever a need arose. The museum's director Sean O'Harrow said the sale would "destroy our reputation in one fell swoop." 

The sale was proposed by Rep. Scott Raecker (R)  and approved last week by the Iowa house of representatives. It still must pass the Iowa senate before any action occurs. News of the possible sale sparked a lively debate in the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Culture Grrl blog.

Meanwhile a "Save the Pollock" committee on the Iowa City campus has planned a protest for Thursday, Feb. 24.  Passersby will be invited to sign a petition to save the painting, and then be allowed to splash Pollock-style paint on the protester's white clothes,

The painting was a 1951 gift to the Iowa Art Museum from heiress Peggy Guggenheim, Pollock's New York art dealer. Sale opponents have speculated that Guggenheim's heirs might sue for the picture's return should the museum try to sell it in violation of the terms of her gift.

Sometimes dubbed Iowa's most famous painting (take that, Grant Wood), the mural is more than 20 ft. long and 8 ft. high. Painted in 1943, several years before Pollock invented his signature drip-and-spatter style, it is a swirly melange of abstract streaks and blobs wrapped around cartoonish faces and body parts. Since 2009 it has been on loan to the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa while the University Art Museum is closed for repairs following a devastating flood in 2008.

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