Chicago Mayor Withdraws Kerry James Marshall Painting From Auction

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has backpedaled on his controversial plan to sell a Kerry James Marshall painting to fund the renovation of a public library, following fierce criticism from public art advocates nationwide. Knowledge and Wonder, a large-scale mural depicting African American children finding joy in books, was commissioned for the Legler Branch of the Chicago Public Library in the 1990s for $10,000 and was expected to bring in between $10 million and $15 million at an auction at Christie’s in New York on November 15.

Marshall also took issue with the sale of the piece and described the move as “exploitative.” The sixty-three-year-old artist told >Artnews: “I am certain they could get more money if they sold the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza. . . . You could say the City of Big Shoulders has wrung every bit of value they could from the fruits of my labor.” When asked about the reversal, Marshall told the >Chicago Tribune: “It’s the right decision to make.”

Emanuel wanted to use the proceeds from the sale of the site-specific work to overhaul the library that houses it. Rather than continue with the $10 million renovation of the institution, which is located on Chicago’s West Side, the city will move forward with a less ambitious project and a revised budget of $1.8 million, which will allow the library to extend its hours and purchase fifty new computers.

In response to the news, Madeleine Grynsztejn, director of the MCA Chicago, said that the mayor’s decision puts him on “the right side of history.” “The value of a painting in a public space like a library for the city of Chicago has no equivalent in terms of its ability to educate and inspire. I am thrilled that the mayor has found a way to honor Kerry James Marshall, one of Chicago’s and even this country’s greatest living artists by retaining it.”

Source : https://www.artforum.com/news/chicago-mayor-withdraws-kerry-james-marshall-painting-from-auction-77499

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