Friday, December 01, 2006

Eakins Ideas

Several commentaries in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. First, lawyer Dan Larkin suggests a compromise:

"Philadelphia supporters should offer to contribute a negotiated portion of the $68 million purchase price for these terms:
"Philadelphia ends legal efforts to prohibit the painting's move, efforts that would absorb large sums, earn the enmity of a major medical school at the heart of our major economic growth engine (health care), delay the 'transformational' benefit promised from the sale's proceeds, and raise awkward questions for museums that acquire works of art that also 'resonate' in their home cultures.
"In return, The Gross Clinic is displayed at the National Gallery and in Arkansas in a setting designed to ensure the painting powerfully proclaims its Philadelphia provenance to millions of national and international viewers annually. Text and photographs would complement the painting's illumination of the city's technical and cultural preeminence. Evidence of the city's leading role in 19th-century medicine would be placed in the context of the continuing preeminence of our medical schools, hospitals, and pharmaceutical and biotech firms.
"The painting returns home as honored guest and centerpiece for festive occasions marking major events central to the city or Eakins."

Art historian Marie Naples Maber says let it go: "I lament that this masterpiece may leave the city where I trained and have enjoyed the arts for more than 30 years. But I also understand that a broader perspective can be revealing. This painting has hung at Thomas Jefferson University since 1878. It was accessible to art-lovers through a telephone call and a reserved visit. If 500 people per year is all the audience such a world-famous work could muster, what meaningful difference does it make to Philadelphians if it's removed?"

And David Traub says the city should build a new "Museum of the Health Sciences" and put the painting there.