In the face of withering criticism from public art advocates and the artist himself, the city of Chicago won’t be selling its multimillion-dollar Kerry James Marshall painting after all.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has decided to pull the Marshall canvas “Knowledge and Wonder” from a Nov. 15 auction at Christie’s in New York City, where the work, commissioned for the Legler Branch of the Chicago Public Library for $10,000 in 1995, was expected to sell for more than $10 million.
“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.’”
News of the impending sale drew criticism from curators and art critics nationwide and from Marshall himself. The Bronzeville artist, who has lived in Chicago since the 1980s, said last month, “I am certain they could get more money if they sold the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza.”
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