Sunday, December 12, 2010

Have your Picasso and peonies, too...

The Huntington Library, Art Collection and Botanical Gardens surely* wanted to bring Frances Brody's Picasso, “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust,” into the public domain at their own institution. Francie, a board member, had other ideas. Her greatest love at the Huntington was for the gardens, and she wanted especially to endow their care. Gifting the Picasso to the Huntington would leave the painting's $106.5 million dollar value stranded, contributing art appreciation and capital appreciation to that institution's art collection, but not a penny of income to support its gardens. To cultivate income, her estate sold the Picasso to an anonymous buyer on the open market and gifted the cash to the Huntington. So no Picasso for the public to ponder, but plenty of pesetas for peonies, posies, pansies and petunias.

Poor Frances apparently knew nothing about Coaccession, which would have let the Picasso join the Huntington's art collection while also providing cash income dedicated (ostensibly, at least**) to the gardens. Sharing wisely allows many mutual benefits, while an institution's solipsistic greed can isolate and diminish it. Here's hoping the Huntington and other institutions ready better plans for expanding the public domain when similar opportunities arise again.

*Marion Maneker does question: "So which would the Huntington rather have had: the art or the money?"

** Jori Finkel does report Huntington president Steven Koblick saying that "using the Brody money for botanical purposes frees up existing funds to address other needs..." Diligent donors don't forget fungibility!

1 comment:

scott davidson said...

As an older art collector since my wife passed away, I must admit to being very partial to collecting nudes in art, as original paintings or as good prints, that I have displayed all over the house. (I like to see the surprised faces of my new visitors).
This one,, by Emile Munier, is hanging in one corner of my bedroom and was printed by, where I am a very good customer.