This is Real: SAM and The Clark Wager Art Loans for Super Bowl XLIX

Posted on January 29, 2015, 9:39 pm
5 mins


It isn’t legal to gamble cash on Super Bowl XLIX, a pivotal moment for both franchises, the Seattle Seahawks (the good guys) and the New England Patriots (the flat guys, as Seattle’s own Bill Nye explains). Still, plenty of people are making other friendly wagers on the outcome—and we can add cultural institutions to that list. Seattle Art Museum and New England’s Clark Art Institute are wagering temporary loans of two masterpieces from their respective collections.

Both paintings are a proxy of the land itself. From SAM, “The majestic Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast” from 1870 by Albert Bierstadt is put forward by Kimerly Rorschach, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO. Winslow Homer’s masterpiece, “West Point, Prout’s Neck” (1900), a key piece in The Clark’s noted Homer collection, is put forth by Michael Conforti, Director of the Clark Art Institute.

The losing museum will ship the anted artwork to the winner for a three month loan. (No word yet whether it will be lit with the winning team’s color or festooned with paraphernalia. I hope not, but I’m sure that Homer would look eerily beautiful beneath green and blue lights.)

Both sides are already exchanging civil little jabs in the press release:

“I am sure that this beautiful Homer painting will be coming to Seattle after our Seahawks defeat the Patriots for another Super Bowl win. We are already making plans to host this incredible work of American art in our galleries so that Seattle fans can enjoy it,” said Rorschach.

“The way we see it, nobody loses with this wager,” said Conforti. “Albert Bierstadt was raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts, so we will be very happy to welcome the work of a native son back to New England following the Patriot’s win on game day. Having just opened our new building, we’ve got just the right spot to show this remarkable Bierstadt and know our visitors will love the chance to see it.”

Well, Conforti, I hope admission to your museum includes airfare to Seattle.

PS: If you are an art lover feeling overwhelmed by the 12th Man Mania spreading throughout Seattle, I recommend going to On the Boards on Sunday afternoon for Mariano Pensotti’s Cineastas. You can enjoy some fabulous Argentinian, experimental theatre in relative peace before emerging into the (hopefully not rioting/post-apocalyptic streets).

Albert Bierstadt Puget Sound

“Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast,” 1870 by Albert Bierstadt. Image courtesy of Seattle Art Museum.

SAM’s Wager

In 1870, Albert Bierstadt painted one of the most novel subjects of his career: Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast. This spectacular, eight-foot-wide view of Puget Sound resulted from newly reawakened interest in a region the artist had visited only briefly seven years before. This painting is more than just a landscape painting. It is also a historical work, a narrative of an ancient maritime people, and a rumination on the ages-old mountains, basaltic rocks, dense woods, glacial rivers, and surfpounded shores that have given the Northwest its look and also shaped its culture.

"West Point, Prout's Neck," 1900 by Winslow Homer

“West Point, Prout’s Neck,” 1900 by Winslow Homer. Image courtesy of The Clark Art Institute.

Clark Art Institute’s Wager

Winslow Homer considered “West Point, Prout’s Neck” one of his greatest seascapes, the culmination of his intense study of the coast of Maine where he spent his last years as an artist. Waves crash against massive rocks as bands of brilliant color stretch across the horizon, casting a rosy glow over the ocean. “The picture is painted fifteen minutes after sunset–not one minute before,” wrote Homer, who went on to explain that recording such a fleeting moment took “many days of careful observation.” The brilliance of Homer’s color and brushwork expresses brilliantly the power of nature.

T.s. Flock is a writer and arts critic based in Seattle and co-founder of Vanguard Seattle.