John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

Art on Sunday: Stuart Davis, Still Life with Flowers

Stuart Davis (1892–1964)
Still Life with Flowers, 1930
Oil on canvas
Stuart Davis, Still Life with Flowers
Sold by Christie's to an anonymous buyer, December 2005; current whereabouts unknown

There's an interesting story behind this painting. It was part of a traveling exhibition organized by the State Department in 1948. When the exhibit came under fire from the House Un-American Activities Committee for including works by leftist artists, the State Department put up some of the more controversial works for sale. This particular work was purchased by an art teacher at New Trier Township High School for $62.50. For several years it hung in a hallway and was used by the art department as an example of American modernism, but eventually it was taken down and put into storage. By the time the painting was rediscovered in the 1990s, Davis had become a hot artist, so New Trier lent it to the Art Institute of Chicago and began to explore the idea of selling it. When it was auctioned off in December of last year, it brought in 3.1 million dollars. Christie's gets a commission from the sale, which leaves New Trier with a mere $2.8 million. See? Interesting.

But from my perspective as a former Chicagoan, the most interesting thing about this whole situation is that New Trier is one of the best-funded school in Illinois, if not the whole country. New Trier needs an extra $2.8 million like Bill Gates needs a winning lottery ticket. Their annual budget last year was $75 million. In their own words, "the painting proceeds will not have a significant effect on any particular thing that we will do that we would not have done before." Meanwhile, 20 miles away in Chicago, there are school that can't afford to but toilet paper for the bathrooms. One wonders what a leftist like Stuart Davis would think.

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