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NOMA and IMA – Super Bowl trash talk

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A press release about a Super Bowl wager between the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) and the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) is all over the net. I actually called and spoke with the Director of Communications & Marketing @ NOMA, Grace Wilson, to verify that this was for real, and not a hoax that some art-inclined football fan had started. Wilson said yes, it is for real, and not only that but NOMA even offered a portrait of the Mannings (father and son). It was declined in favor of classic and more valuable work.

Below are the paintings, and the press release followed by a ton of links to newspapers and other versions of the story (click the “read more” button at the bottom). I’m partial to the Renior, myself. Whoux Dat!
NEW ORLEANS, LA.- In an online betting match that began via Twitter, museum directors Maxwell L. Anderson, The Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), and E. John Bullard, The Montine McDaniel Freeman Director and CEO of the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), have agreed to a three-month loan of a significant work of art to the museum in the city whose NFL team wins the Super Bowl on February 7, 2010.

If the Indianapolis Colts win, NOMA will loan the landscape painting “Ideal View of Tivoli”, 1644, by French artist Claude Lorrain to the IMA. If the New Orleans Saints win, the IMA will loan “The Fifth Plague of Egypt”, 1800, a landscape by British artist J.M.W. Turner to NOMA.

The betting war, which began on Monday, January 25, when arts blogger Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes ( tweeted: “@tylergreendc: Would love to see @IMAmuseum and @NOMA1910 make a Super Bowl bet. Like a painting-loan-to-the-winning city,” quickly escalated to an all-out betting war of fine art.

Anderson started the betting on Twitter by offering a contemporary artwork by Ingrid Calame to NOMA, should the Saints win: “@MaxAndersonUSA: We are prepared to lend a painting by Ingrid Calame to NOMA, for 3 months as of July 1:,” also noting, “We’re already spackling the wall where the NOMA loan will hang.”

Dismissing the Calame, Bullard raised the stakes by offering a Renoir. On Tuesday morning, Bullard e-mailed Green with the following message: “Max Anderson must not really believe the Colts can beat the Saints in the Super Bowl. 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!”

Via Twitter, Anderson upped the ante yet again with: “We’ll see the sentimental blancmange by that ‘China Painter’ and raise you a proper trophy,” offering a jewel-encrusted cup by French artist Jean-Valentine Morel, which won the Grand Medal at the 1855 Paris World Fair.

In an e-mail sent to Green later on Tuesday, Bullard countered: “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.”

Anderson replied, raising the stakes yet again: “@NOMA1910 Colts will win; here’s how sure I am: IMA Turner ( for Vigée Lebrun’s Portrait of Marie Antoinette.”

NOMA responded: “Sorry @imamuseum – Marie is too fragile for travel, much like Farve. What about Claude Lorrain, “Ideal View of Tivoli”, @MaxAndersonUSA?”

Bullard e-mailed 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.”

Finally, the betting concluded-and the Super Bowl wager between the two museums was sealed-on Wednesday with Anderson’s tweet: “@NOMA1910 Deal–Claude for Turner. Two masters in spirited competition across the channel, and between our fair cities. Go Colts!”

Bullard’s final e-mail to Green was, “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!!!”

For a full play-by-play visit Tyler Green’s Modern Art Notes blog.

Wall Street Journal Blog, January 27, 2010

Times Picauyne, January 28, 2010

The New York Times, January 30, 2010
(see attached PDF), January 29, 2010 

National Public Radio, January 29, 2010
Unbeige on Media Bistro
Art Info, February 1, 2010
Yahoo! News, February 1, 2010 

USA Today, February 3, 2010

Art Daily, February 4, 2010

NOMA also got a call from Swiss National Radio, so we’ve officially jumped the pond.