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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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Solving a university deficit: a work of art

Some colleges are contemplating selling artwork to plug budget holes.

Last week the usually obscure art world got a jolt from the outside: A state legislator proposed forcing the University of Iowa to sell its estimated $140 million Jackson Pollock masterpiece to fund an annual scholarship.

Despite the similarities between the universities of Minnesota and Iowa âÄî both are large land grant schools in states with strong outstate political representation âÄî the director of the University of MinnesotaâÄôs premier art museum has no worries about the culture war moving north.

“Who knows what could happen 10 years down the road when people are all different,” Weisman Art Museum Director Lyndel King said of University administrators and state lawmakers. “At this point IâÄôm very confident. I know they get it.”

King said the museum will receive about $1.6 million from the University in the 2011-12 fiscal year, about half of which goes to overhead costs. For the safety of its collection, it is against the museumâÄôs policy to offer estimates of individual items.

Robert Davidson, president of the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, said while itâÄôs rare for academic museums to sell off large paintings, or in some cases an entire gallery, the association is wary of such a precedent.

The examples that have Robertson and others in the art community worried include Brandeis University. In 2009 Brandeis announced it would close its Rose Art Museum and sell off the paintings to bridge its deficit. Plans were eventually scrapped amid legal threats and popular outcry.

King attributes the WeismanâÄôs relative safety in part to her familiarity with administrators. Serving as the WeismanâÄôs director since 1981, King worked with University President Bob Bruininks when he served as provost. She said she also has a good relationship with Tom Sullivan, who replaced Bruininks as provost.

King said sheâÄôs less familiar with members of the state Legislature. Republicans assumed majorities in both its chambers in the last election cycle.

The proposed sale of IowaâÄôs Pollock, titled “Mural,” has attracted praise and criticism from members of the systemâÄôs board of regents. Writing in support of House Study Bill 84, Regent Michael Gartner said that “providing scholarships to Iowa students is far more important than owning a painting.”

Davidson said thatâÄôs short-sighted financial planning. He said colleges open themselves up to individual actions like the Iowa case by not planning for regular economic downturns.

“We should not be the butt of their mismanagement.”

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