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Indy vs. NOLA: Museum Directors Sack Up

As Super Bowl mania heats up — a two week hype-fest unlike any other — the eyes of the nation eagerly turn to the traditional Mayor’s Bet, in which each city’s executive wagers the finest edible goodness his burg has to offer.

The only problem: Indianapolis is in the Super Bowl this year. Unfortunately, the sleepy Midwestern corn-tropolis has very little to offer New Orleans, one of the best places to chow down in the world.

Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard made his wager: “shrimp cocktail with plenty of horseradish.” Whoop de doo, like they don’t have shrimp in New Orleans?! Is that the best you can do, Indianapolis? Lame.

Probably because he was so underwhelmed by Ballard’s bet, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin (remember him?) put up a similarly boring offer of “CDs by local musicians and Mardi Gras cakes.” Seriously?

I would have thrown down a Mississippi river barge loaded down with oyster po-boys and beignets, followed by an oil tanker full of Hurricane…all of which would be released for free to the Bourbon Street masses following a victory. Weak sauce, Nagin.

This is why it sucks when second-tier cities make it to national championship games: not only are the ratings limp because they don’t have that many fans, but they can’t even get the Mayor’s Bet right.

If this was New York vs. LA, you’d have all kind of cheesecake, french dip, chili dogs and corned beef sandwiches being thrown down. You know — the good stuff.

Happily, the Mayor’s Bet is not the only wager in play a week from Sunday…

Thanks to some amazing prodding by ARTSJOURNAL’s “Modern Art Notes” blogger Tyler Green, the directors of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art have thrown down masterpieces in one of the most exciting gambling showdowns the art world has ever known!

After Green encouraged the museums to get into the act via Twitter, Indy MOA director Maxwell L. Anderson (pictured above) took the bait.

Here’s the work of art that Anderson proposed to bet: Ingrid Calame’s “Tracings from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the L.A. River.

It’s a pretty cool piece, but come on. As epic Super Bowl bet material goes, it’s the equivalent of Ray Nagin’s lame compact disc collection.

When NOMA director E. John Bullard (pictured above) heard about this wager, he responded in hilarious fashion:

“Max Anderson must not really believe the Colts can beat the Saints in the Super Bowl. Otherwise why would he bet such an insignificant work as the Ingrid Calame painting? 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!”


His spirit mildly stirred by the trash talk of his southern colleague, Anderson replied with a diss of his own and a raised ante:

That’s rich…your original bet was the less-than-legendary Ingrid Calame, but you’re too good for Renoir?

Adding to the Indy-style lameness was that the newly proposed bet was this Jean-Valentine Morel jeweled cup:

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a masterpiece that I would kill to acquire on behalf of one of my various fantasy sports leagues. It’s got gold, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and superb workmanship. But come on now, IMA. NOMA is throwing down a Renoir deemed worthy of touring the world and your response is this frilly French trifle?

Bullard agreed with my take. He demanded that the IMA agree to some REAL high-stakes betting, and called Anderson out via email and tweet: “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.”

Bullard added, “Sorry but we have no farm scenes or portraits of football players to send you.”

You see that, Ray Nagin? THAT’S how you call out a lame Indianapolis bet.

Having been adequately needled, Max Anderson rose to the occasion by throwing down a true masterpiece:

BOOM! This is “The Fifth Plague of Egypt” by the great English landscape painter JMW Turner. It’s one of the early works that helped the painter make his name on the London scene, and it’s definitely worthy of an epic Super Bowl gamble.

The only problem? In return, Anderson requested the NOMA’s prized Lebrun “Portrait of Marie Antoinette,” which isn’t in good enough shape to make the trip to Indy…

While NOMA had to beg off this proposal, at least it did so in amusing fashion:

As Bullard noted by email, “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.”

A fair, thoughtful counteroffer — and it was accepted by Max Anderson:

So there you have it, folks.

While we really liked Deadspin’s idea (“If New Orleans wins they get Van Gogh’s good ear, and if the Colts pull it out, Dallas Clark gets to take a dump on a Cezanne”), the Turner/Claude bet gives this year’s Super Bowl a little bit of added drama that the Mayor’s Bet simply did not deliver.

Now when Pierre Garcon goes up for a grab in the end zone, he’s not just looking for six points — he’s looking to hang a Claude in the IMA.

And as Reggie Bush catches a kickoff and looks to take it to the house, he’s also got a chance to bring a Turner to NOMA!

Huge, huge hat tip to Tyler Green for sparking this curatorial rivalry. For those of you who think Twitter is lame/pointless, this major wager never would have happened without the microblogging site…so reconsider your assumptions, chump.

Hopefully this will become a proud tradition in the world of sports. Think of it now — Italy beats France in the World Cup and reclaims the Mona Lisa! The Lakers beat the Celtics and the Getty punks the MFA for a Cezanne! The Rangers beat the Cubs and the Sears Tower is relocated to Dallas! The possibilities are endless.

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About Alpine McGregor
Just like you, man. I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. All in the game, though, right?

One Response to Indy vs. NOLA: Museum Directors Sack Up

  1. GoGoMrPoPo says:

    Thanks, ROTI. I plan to use the “just looks like another over-elaborate Victorian tchotchke” to fend off all ridiculous home decor suggestions of my wife.

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