The Reader’s Digest version is that Marshall was commissioned by the city to create a work of art for a west side library for $10,000 in 1995. In the years since, the library has suffered from lack of city support and Rahm came up with the idea of selling the Marshall painting. It could bring in millions now that the artist’s work is hugely marketable.
Selling city assets for short-term financial gain is the Mayor’s standard operating procedure.
This morning’s Chicago Tribune reports that the Mayor apparently went swimming and had a thought.
“I was swimming and thought, ‘This is not what I wanted, given the city’s contributions to public art, and Kerry’s a friend and also a great ambassador for Chicago,’” Emanuel said Sunday afternoon. “I reached out to him and said, ‘Look, I don’t want this. If you’re not happy, I don’t want to go forward.’”
Too bad the Mayor didn’t go for a swim after coming up with the idea to close 50 schools or hide the Laquan McDonald video.
Who knows? He could still be Mayor next year instead of having to pack his bags.
He seems to do his best thinking in water.
As I posted before:
Earlier this year, Chicago’s Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority sold Marshall’s “Past Times” painting for $21.1 million at Sotheby’s to Sean Combs. It had been commissioned for $25,000 in 1997. The sale established Marshall, 62, as the most expensive living black artist at auction.
It seems as if Kerry James Marshall’s paintings are keeping Chicago afloat.
Like Chicago’s school board, the library board is unelected and made up of mayoral appointees.
What does the community around Legler library feel about the library board selling off part of the community’s artistic legacy?
They have no voice in this decision.
The problem is that there is not a source of sustainable revenue for our public institutions. Our schools and our libraries. So mayors Daley and Rahm were and are willing to sell off our public assets.
The sales or our assets are one-time deals. There will be no such deal next year unless they sell off more of our stuff.
Responding to wide-spread criticism of his idea to sell the work by Kerry James Marshall, the Mayor responded:
“I own all of it,” the mayor said Sunday. “I own the decision to try and create equity for the West Side. I own the idea of trying to find an elegant solution. And I own pulling it back when it doesn’t work for everybody.”
He is an autocrat by law and personality. Yet, no matter who the next mayor is, we need greater democracy in this city, starting with an elected representative school board.
As for the painting, I always thought we owned it.