It all started with a little friendly smack-talk on Twitter. Blogger Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes tweeted that the Indianapolis Musem of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art should get a Super Bowl art loan bet going.
Maxwell L. Anderson, director of the IMA, took up the challenge and offered NOMA a three-month loan of Ingrid Calame’s From #258 Drawing, at the same time scoffing at the notion that they’d have to part with it. “We’re already spackling the wall where the NOMA loan will hang,” Anderson tweeted.
NOMA director E. John Bullard glove slapped Anderson right back harder via email. “Max Anderson must not really believe the Colts can beat the Saints in the Super Bowl. Otherwise why would he bet such an insignificant work as the Ingrid Calame painting? Let’s up the ante. The New Orleans Museum of Art will bet the three-month loan of its Renoir painting, Seamstress at Window, circa 1908, which is currently in the big Renoir exhibition in Paris. What will Max wager of equal importance? Go Saints!”
Well of course Anderson couldn’t take that affront sitting down. He came back swinging via Twitter and Renoir is probably still holding a steak on this shiner: “We’ll see the sentimental blancmange by that “China Painter” and raise you a proper trophy: [a richly bejeweled Jean-Valentine Morel cup.]
So Bullard decided to cut to the chase with an email to Tyler Green: “I am amused that Renoir is too sweet for Indianapolis. Does this mean that those Indiana corn farmers have simpler tastes? If so why would Max offer us that gaudy Chalice — just looks like another over-elaborate Victorian tchotchke. Let’s get serious. Each museum needs to offer an art work that they would really miss for three months. What would you like Max? A Monet, a Cassatt, a Picasso, a Miro? Sorry but we have no farm scenes or portraits of football players to send you.”
ICEBURN! Anderson must have felt it too, because he stopped playing around. His next tweet went hardcore: “Colts will win; here’s how sure I am: [the IMA's four-by-six-foot JMW] Turner [The Fifth Plague of Egypt] for Vigée Lebrun’s Portrait of Marie Antoinette.”
Bullard dug the landscape and made a solid counteroffer again via email to Green: “I’m glad to see that Max has gotten serious. Certainly the Turner painting in Indianapolis is a masterpiece, worthy of any great museum. Regretably the size, over ten feet high with its original elaborate frame, and the fragile condition of New Orleans’ Portrait of Marie Antoinette prohibits it from traveling. I propose instead our large and beautiful painting by Claude Lorrain, Ideal View of Tivoli, 1644. This great French artist is considered the father of landscape painting and was one of Turner’s great inspirations. These two paintings would look splendid hanging together in New Orleans — or miracle of miracles, in Indianapolis.”
Anderson accepted with a joyous tweet: “Deal — Claude for Turner. Two masters in spirited competition across the channel, and between our fair cities. Go Colts!”
Bullard emailed back: “Max is a gracious opponent. Thanks for accepting the wager of a Claude from New Orleans for a Turner from Indianapolis. But this is definitely the Saints year. They are the Dream Team and in New Orleans we know that dreams come true. Geaux Saints!!!”
I don’t follow football, but now for the first time I’ll actually be curious to see who wins. And the directors’ reactions, of course.