ARTS & CULTURE
02/23/2011 03:51 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Republicans Back Off Proposal To Force Sale Of University Of Iowa's Pollock Painting

"The Pollock" is safe. For now anyway.

The bill proposed to force the sale of University of Iowa's Jackson Pollock painting, Mural, died on Tuesday before it was to be debated by the Iowa House Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Scott Raecker, R-Urbandale, introduced the bill in the interest of creating a scholarship fund for students. However, after being flooded with calls and emails from people on both sides of the debate, it became clear that agreement would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

Raecker, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was quoted in the Quad City Times stating, "it appears the sides are so far apart that it is not a good use of legislative time. There is too wide a gulf to build consensus on this this year."

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad spoke out against the bill and was quoted in the Des Moines Register stating,

I do understand their intention is to have more money available for scholarships. So their intentions are good but the unintended consequences, in terms of donations to the universities, is something that should also be considered.

Although the bill was proposed for the financial benefit of the university, many were concerned the sale would have an adverse affect on donor funding. John Pappajohn, a Des Moines philanthropist who has given $40 million to the university (and after whom the university's business building is named) called the potential sale a "disaster."

Bonnie Styles, commission chairwoman of the American Association of Museums also denounced the sale in a letter to lawmakers mentioning the potential consequences of decreased donor funding, lack of respect from the public, as well as the potential for the University of Iowa Museum of Art to lose its accreditation.

If this story sounds familiar, it's because just three years ago the university had to fight a similar proposal. In 2008, Regent Michael Gartner suggested selling Mural to offset costs of flood damage, which destroyed much of the university, including most of the arts campus. But for now, those opposing the sale have again won. In an email sent to UIMA newsletter subscribers, director Sean O'Harrow said,

I always knew that our state legislators would do the right thing in the end by helping to preserve our cultural heritage for future generations. Peggy Guggenheim would be proud of Iowa!

Mural was donated to the university in 1951 by Peggy Guggenheim. For more information on the donation, as well as the history and influence of the painting, read here. Currently, Mural is on view at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, IA as part of the "A Legacy for Iowa" exhibition.