I stole a couple hours with my “Aunt” (close family friend) Mary Pappajohn to tour the Des Moines Art Center while I was home last week. As we ate lunch, I looked out over the building I took art lessons in as a child from artist Peggy Patrick, the beautiful rose garden I once dreamt of being married in – barefoot with flowers in my hair, giving way to the emerald green woods of Greenwood Park, my old teenage haunt.

Marble sculpture by Jaume Plensa of Alexandra

Marble sculpture by Jaume Plensa of Alexandra

Afterward, I looked for old familiar favorites like Frances Bacons’ Screaming Pope, Andy Warhols’ Flowers, and a Giacometti I adored as a wee girl amongst many new and exciting acquisitions in recent years including a stunning Jaume Plensa Aunt Mary and Uncle John commissioned of their granddaughter, Alexandra. My disappointment over the Roy Lichtenstein Pyramid (my personal favorite piece in the Art Centers’ collection), was soon forgotten when we turned the corner to see the massive  8′ 1 1/4′ x 19′ 10″ Jackson Pollock on loan from Iowa City. My breath was quite literally taken away.

Mural by Jackson Pollock

Mural by Jackson Pollock

This very important 1943 piece marks the beginning of Pollock’s abstract expressionist work and predates his famous paint flinging days by a few years. The magnificent Mural was originally commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim for the entry hall of her New York apartment. “Howard Putzel, Guggenheim’s secretary-assistant, urged her to give Pollock a project that would unleash the force he perceived in Pollock’s smaller-scaled easel paintings.” Thankfully for us, Marcel Duchamp talked her into having the work done on canvas rather than directly on the wall for portability. In 1947, Ms. Guggenheim closed the doors to her New York gallery and moved to Venice. Without the wall space to house Mural, she gifted it to the University of Iowa in 1948. Mural is currently valued at $140,000,000.00.

“It was a stampede… [of] every animal in the American West, cows, and horses and antelopes and buffalo. Everything is charging across that goddamn canvas.” – Jackson Pollock describing his vision for Mural after months of staring at a blank canvas during a creative block.

This post was first published May 20, 2012

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