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The 'Art' of Compromise

This time last year, then-Treasurer John Kennedy was making the rounds of speaking engagements, complaining about spending on art for state buildings.

“They took $1.1-million cash of taxpayer money and they shouldn’t have been spending it on a sculpture in the first place,” Kennedy protested. “When you’re supposed to be broke, art is not a priority.”

Meanwhile, public records show Kennedy had $300-thousand worth of art – loaned to him by the Louisiana State Museum – on display in the Treasurer’s office at the state capitol. Now that he’s a U.S. Senator, he has asked to hang those paintings in his office in Washington, D.C.

The State Museum Board says that violates their rules, since the art would not be in a state-owned building or another museum. An art conservator would have to go to D.C. to regularly inspect the paintings for damage. In addition, crating and shipping the art could cost as much as $15,000.And then there’s the question of insurance on the full value of the pieces.

Despite those issues, board members are under pressure to loan the art to Senator Kennedy.

“You’ve each received an email from the Lt. Governor,” Collections committee chair Tamra Carboni acknowledged at Monday’s meeting.

Committee members were openly expressed their concerns with the request, not the least of which being that the American Alliance of Museums cautions it could be considered “inappropriate, unethical, and may constitute a breach of the museum’s public trust.”

But a compromise suggested during the meeting may offer a way out of the political pickle.

“Why wouldn’t reproductions do?” asked Mary Coulon. “The Lt. Governor has reproductions in his conference room.”

Members discussed offering Senator Kennedy giclees of the paintings instead.

“Rather than take a vote today denying the loan and risking the ire, maybe the thing to do is a sales pitch on the giclee’ and how good it is.”

A giclee’ is a high quality digital reproduction that can be printed on canvas—complete with texture to mimic brush strokes. Members noted these could also be the vanguard for a new revenue stream for the museum – if the reproductions in the senator’s office have appropriate signage.

“You know, ‘This giclee’ available for purchase’,” Faileigh Cook Jackson suggested. “That would be Senator Kennedy being an actual champion for the arts.”

The full museum board has the vote next week, but should they decide to loan out the original artworks, the state Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee would also have to approve the loan.