University Of Iowa’s Stanley Museum Reopens To Public After 14 Years

When renowned art collector Peggy Guggenheim commissioned a young Jackson Pollock to paint a mural for her New York townhome in 1943, she was confident that she had discovered the next great American artist. The product of that commission, Mural, has been recognized as one of the most significant American artworks of the 20th century and launched Pollock to international stardom.

Similarly, when Guggenheim donated Mural to the University of Iowa in 1951, it signified a kind of arrival for the public university’s already prestigious art department. Mural and the University of Iowa have since become interchangeable symbols of artistic excellence; yet for the past 14 years, Pollock’s magnum opus has been only tenuously tethered to its Midwestern homestead since a devastating flood struck the university’s art museum in 2008 and displaced its collection. While all the works were recovered, they were left without a permanent home, and many of the university’s linchpin holdings—including Mural—were forced to take up temporary residence in galleries and storage units around the world.

But on July 14, 2022, after years of restoration work and tours throughout the United States and Europe, Mural returned to the University of Iowa, kicking off a celebration a decade and a half in the making.

The University of Iowa’s reputation as a world-class enclave for fine art dates back more than a century. The university began offering formal curricula in fine arts in the late 19th century, but planted its stake as a pioneering institution for arts education in the 1920s with the introduction of the “Iowa Idea,” the then-novel concept that artists and art scholars ought to practice alongside one another within an academic context, allowing each to study and be challenged by the other’s work. The university’s School of Art and Art History was founded in 1938 with the Iowa Idea as its guiding principle, and defined a graduate-level art theory and practice program that became the blueprint for the modern master of fine arts degree.

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