Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Super [Art] Bowl!

I don't know about you guys, but when it comes to the Super Bowl, I have exactly three interests:
1. The commercials
2. The half-time show
3. The appetizers accompanying the festivities

Mmm, appetizers may in fact be higher on this list. But I digress.

The game itself is good too, I suppose. I'm more of a college football fan myself.

What makes the Super Bowl so exciting is not the game itself, but more so the camaraderie and rivalries associated with the game. This time of year you see strings of cars outside your neighbor's houses and you can hear people shouting and cheering over potluck style food, beers, and friendly wagers.

A different style of friendly Super Bowl wager has developed in the last 7 years that of course, as an art historian, excites me greatly! My excitement doesn't just stem from the fact that art is involved, but rather because cities are actively working to inspire enthusiasm and support for their teams and communities through art.

Frederic Remington, The Bronco Buster, 1895

Super Bowl XLVIII featured the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks (As if you didn't know ;)). If the fans are the 12th man on the field, then the city's respective art museums, Denver Art Museum and Seattle Art Museum Museum, are the lucky 13th. To amp up excitement for the game, DAM and SAM (as they're affectionately called on Twitter) wagered a 3-month loan of one of their art works to their rival, should the rival prevail. Shipping and expenses will be paid by the losing city.

Denver offered up Frederic Remington's 1895 bronze beauty The Bronco Buster. Seattle initially offered a 135-year-old Nuwalk tribal bird mask. Out of respect for the Nuwalk Nation, who requested they not trade the piece, Seattle reconsidered to offer Tsuji Kako's 6-paneled Sound of Waves. Unlike wagers of years past (which will be mentioned below), these museums chose works that implied their home teams' mascots, making the trade all the more personal.

Congratulations, citizens of Seattle! The Bronco Buster is coming your way for the next three months.
Tsuji Kako, Sound of Waves,  1901, six-paneled screen, 65-1/2 in. x 12 ft.
Gift of Henry and Mary Ann James

Nuwalk Tribal Bird Mask, 1879

This is not the first time museums have wagered art on behalf of their football teams! The Indianapolis Colts took on the Chicago Bears in 2007, bringing the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art to a head. The Saints took the Bowl that year, earning the presence of IMA's extraordinary painting by J.M.W. Turner, The Fifth Plague of Egypt (pictured below, left) in New Orleans for a visit. Should the Colts have won, they would have received on loan Claude Lorrain's 1644 Ideal View of Tivoli (pictured below, right).

In 2011, the Packers (backed by the Milwaukee Art Museum) and the Steelers (supported by the Carnegie Museum of Art) duked it out with the outcome in favor of the Packers. Museum-goers in Milwaukee were treated for three months to four luxurious nudes in Pierre-Auguste Renoir's Bathers with Crab, which some would argue was the more tantalizing option when compared to the offered Gustave Caillebotte's Boating on the Yerres

I just love this. I love that cities are collaborating and generating excitement from their constituents for the art treasures the museums have to offer. In my mind, this is a brilliant move on the part of the museums and I hope we see many more of these friendly art wagers at future Super Bowls. Kudos to you, IMA, NOMA, MAM, CMA, DAM, and SAM!!