The key players in this years hoped-for Super Bowl bet between the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Art both initially expressed interest in a wager yesterday, but then fell silent. So far we don’t have a replay of last year, when Indianapolis Museum of Art director Max Anderson and New Orleans Museum of Art director John Bullard trash-talked and stakes-raised until a Turner and a Claude were on the line. However, with 13 days left before Super Bowl XLV, there’s time yet.
As Bullard said last year, for a Super Bowl bet to really be exciting, “Each museum needs to offer an art work that they would really miss for three months.” So seeing as MAM and CMOA are playing it so close to the vest, here are some ideas:
Milwaukee should put one of two paintings on the line. One option should be Gustave Caillebotte’s Boating on the Yerres (1877, above), a sparkling bit of impressionism. Even more fitting would be Gerrit van Honthorst’s Mars, God of War (1624-27, a better image is here and at left, via Flickr user JoetheLion), a knowing wink at football’s preferred metaphor. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Mary Louise Schumacher urges MAM and CMOA forward here, suggesting that MAM put up a Kandinsky, Rothko or Fragonard on the line.
And what about the Carnegie Museum of Art? It has what may be the greatest Pierre Bonnard in America, this picture of the artist’s dead wife in the bath (yes, really). Hard to top that. (Heck, if the bet was with me, that would be the wager — and the CMOA would never get it back.) Schumacher also makes some good suggestions from CMOA’s collection, including this terrific Cezanne and this cheeky Sargent portrait of an antsy young man. That last one seems like a particularly coy possibility: If the Packers win the Super Bowl, that lad would spend 90 days sharing Pittsburgh’s petulance with Wisconsin.
I don’t think Milwaukee has a Degas painting, so this circa 1895 bath scene at the Carnegie would be a nice, racy, temporary trophy. Even racier: Simon Vouet’s Toilet of Venus, which is full of verve and flesh. But in keeping with the Bullard edict, the best choice would likely be the Carnegie’s terrific Van Gogh, Wheat Fields After the Rain (1890, right), painted just four days before the artist died. Schumacher seized on that one, too: “How much do you love your team,” she asked Pittsburgh. “Put it on the line!”
Related: Don’t miss Schumacher’s entertaining urging-on of the tweedy combatants.