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So this is why funding for the arts is so low.

According to the New York Times, UC Berkeley somehow misplaced and later donated sold a 22- foot long piece of art for $150. Considering that some 4×6 inch paintings we see at the Oakland Art Murmur are three times more expensive, that’s not a bad deal. Oh, did we mention that it’s valued at over $1 million?

Now, there’s really no reason to get upset, right? It was just a simple, laughable $1 million mistake that any of us could have made. And it’s not like UC Berkeley is in dire straits and would’ve somehow benefited from this tiny bit of extra change they had lying around. And considering you might only find a deal like this at a “Going Out of Business Sale,” you gotta wonder about the symbolic nature of this transaction.

The massive carved wooden panel, ­dating back to 1937, was created by renowned African-American sculptor Sargent Johnson, considered one of the finest sculptors of the Harlem Renaissance.

The panel is one of two that were created to cover organ pipes at the old California School for the Deaf and Blind in Berkeley. When the school closed and the university took over the building, one of the panels managed to make its way into the university’s surplus store until Greg Favors, an art and furniture dealer, bought the piece for $150 plus tax ($164.63).

Not knowing exactly how amazingly fortunate he had just been, he had it restored from its poor condition and began investigating who created it. Coincidentally, he emailed Gray Brechin, a Berkeley scholar and specialist in New Deal art, asking for help. Brechin immediately responded: “You BOUGHT this? They SOLD it?”

Andrew Goldblatt, assistant risk manager for the university, described the sale as regrettable and “an error of ignorance.”

Since then, the Huntington Library Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino acquired the piece (making it their first major work by an African-American artist) while the University of California, Berkeley acquired shame and lost all credibility in the art world/real world.

Image source: xrrr under Creative Commons
Berkeley’s Artwork Loss Is a Museum’s Gain [NY Times]



Comments:
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Mar 22, 2012 at 3:19 am

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