Saturday, April 10, 2021

Norman Rockwell paintings to help American scouts

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The art market, like that of gold, currencies or raw materials, responds to certain logics: aesthetic, sociological, political or geopolitical. A priori, the sale, within a few months, of sixty-five paintings by the American Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) representing scouts in uniform, standing at attention, trumpet in hand, or around a fire. de camp should not have exceeded the audience of friends at the Medici Museum of Art in Ohio, where they are currently hung.

These valiant young white people, close to nature and its Creator, could nevertheless tear themselves away at a price of gold. Maddening detail: the potential buyers of this “white” nostalgia are not Midwestern Trumpists who dream of an America “Great again” by grilling corn on the garden barbecue, but Hollywood gratin, notably the filmmakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, as well as the very discreet but extremely wealthy Alice Walton, the heiress of the Walmart empire.

The situation is absurd

The conditions for the sale of these works, estimated at around 100 million dollars (84 million euros), add confusion to the disorder. The oils belong to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) – America’s oldest youth organization, founded in 1910 -, for whom they were produced. An organization in the hot seat since the revelation, in 2012, by the Los Angeles Times of “Files of perversion”, listing officials accused of pedophile acts, which management confined itself to dismissing without ever reporting them to the authorities.

Questioned by more than 80,000 testimonies for sexual abuse committed between 1944 and 2016, the BSA filed for bankruptcy in 2020. In early March, the organization announced that the income generated by the sale of Rockwell’s works would feed a fund compensation for victims. From the point of view of future buyers, the situation is absurd: they will buy idealized representations of young boys to save an organization that has covered pedophiles, which will thereby compensate the victims …

That sixty-five works by Rockwell made it to the Boy Scouts is hardly surprising: the American illustrator made numerous covers, from 1912 to 1975, for their monthly magazine, Boys’ Life, of which he was the artistic director. Author ofAmerican Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013, untranslated), the art critic Deborah Solomon however specifies by email that“He was never a scout leader and did not register any of his three boys”.

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