Sculpture destroyed, the museum confirms
The Arkansas Art Museum Foundation destroyed “Standing Red,” a sculpture that stood outside the museum in Little Rock’s MacArthur Park for more than 50 years.
The removal and disposal of the sculpture, dedicated to former Arkansas first lady Jeannette Rockefeller, was done in February, according to Victoria Ramirez, executive director of the Art Museum of Arkansas. The disappearance of “Standing Red” sparked questions from the public as the museum did not initially reveal what happened to the sculpture.
Ramirez, who is also secretary of the museum foundation’s board of trustees, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Monday that the board decided to dispose of the sculpture because it was in poor condition and would have cost too much to to fix. The material for the sculpture was recycled, Ramirez said.
The council made the decision to dispose of the sculpture instead of selling it, thinking there would be no market for it. Fine art broker Sotheby’s appraised the sculpture at $1,500 in 1991, Ramirez said.
“That’s where it was determined that the cost to keep it, move it, light it was not in line with our collection policy, given the value of the work itself,” Ramirez said.
The value at the time of acquisition by the museum foundation was $10,000. Ramirez said the museum foundation does not know how this value was obtained, speculating that it was a stated value made by the artist.
“Standing Red” was a 25+ foot sculpture by artist Tal Streeter. The sculpture had a minimalist design and was made up of red steel beams that formed a T-shape at the base and a 25-30 foot beam that extended upwards at the intersection of the base beams.
People began noticing that “Standing Red” had vanished from MacArthur Park within weeks of its removal, prompting questions from the public about its whereabouts. The museum did not respond to public inquiries about the sculpture, as many wondered what became of it.
Earlier this month, Ramirez told the Democrat-Gazette that the museum’s foundation had decided to “hand over” the sculpture, meaning it was removed from the museum’s collection. Since March 2019, Ramirez said, the museum’s foundation has alienated 276 works of art — a number it said was higher than usual — reflecting the need to do so before moving into the museum’s new building. museum, which is under construction. She said the foundation had acquired 726 works since 2019.
From 2019 to 2021, the Foundation looked into the cost of conserving and painting the sculpture.
The foundation was reluctant to sell or donate the sculpture because buyers were likely unavailable and the cost of restoring and moving “Standing Red” would have been too high, she said. Ramirez said the sculpture needed repairs that would have cost $37,147 and $33,858, according to two different estimates.
Permanent installation of “Standing Red” would have incurred costs for relocation, concrete pads, armatures and lighting.
“From our experience, knowing the cost it would take to move it, knowing the cost it would take to keep it, paint it, move it — no options came to mind,” Ramirez said. .
Throughout the process, the foundation board said it followed its disposal policy.
Ramirez is one of nine members of the foundation’s board of directors. The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts Foundation is a nonprofit organization that owns the 14,000 works of art found in the museum. The foundation has a say in what items go into the collection and manages the endowment’s investments.
Little Rock investment banker Warren Stephens, who chairs the foundation’s board of directors, and Robena “Ben” Hussman, the foundation’s vice chairwoman, could not be reached Monday for comment. Robena “Ben” Hussman is the wife of Walter E. Hussman Jr., publisher of the Democrat-Gazette.
For weeks many have wondered what became of the beloved statue as people began to notice that it was missing. Jim Pfeifer, an architect who runs the History of the Heights Facebook page, posted on April 13 about the sculpture’s mysterious disappearance.
Pfeifer asked the museum about the fate of “Standing Red” but was repeatedly rebuffed, he said.
“Maybe if there was a convincing reason, they would have accepted it. Instead, the museum closed its doors [and] refused to answer for weeks and weeks,” Pfeifer said.
Leon Kaplan, former assistant to the director of the Arkansas Arts Center from 1971 to 1980, penned an op-ed published in the Democrat-Gazette on Monday criticizing the museum foundation for its lack of transparency on the move, writing, “It It is up to said management to be more transparent, to explain themselves and to do better.”
“It is imperative that the museum take steps to regain its credibility and public trust,” Kaplan wrote.
Accredited museums generally follow a set of procedures and ethics policies when deciding to dispose of an item from its collection, taking into account a number of factors, including its quality and its suitability for the mission of the museum. .
Sometimes alienated items are sold, and in rare cases they can be destroyed, said Michael Warrick, professor of sculpture at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
“It’s very unusual, but it’s not unheard of,” Warrick said.
Warrick said the reputation of the artist and the quality of the work are the two main factors museums consider when deciding whether or not to release a piece.
Currently, the Art Museum of Arkansas is undergoing a $142 million expansion and renovation project with plans to open in the fall of 2022. Until recently, it seemed that the sculpture was part of the museum’s plans for the future, according to the museum’s website. .
Earlier this month, the museum’s website included a reference to the sculpture in an article about what visitors can see when they visit the museum when it opens in fall 2022, saying “The composition in Monumental and minimalist steel by American sculptor Tal Streeter, Standing Red, arouses curiosity and enlivens the landscape” at MacArthur Park. The next day, the reference to “Standing Red” had been removed from the post.
For some Little Rock residents, “Standing Red” was a piece of public art that served as a talking point for those strolling through MacArthur Park and something for children to climb on.
The sculpture has been a landmark in MacArthur Park for more than five decades and was dedicated to Jeannette Rockefeller, a longtime promoter of the arts in Arkansas.
In the 1950s, Rockefeller was instrumental in expanding the museum of fine arts—then known as the Arkansas Arts Center—helping to expand its collection. In 1960, Rockefeller became chairwoman of the board of trustees of the Arkansas Arts Center, where she served for eight years.
The foundation has decided to dismantle and dispose of “Standing Red”, in consultation and with the agreement of a member of the Rockefeller family, and the museum intends to honor Jeannette Rockefeller in the future, said Ramirez.
In 1970, Little Rock and museum officials dedicated the sculpture to Rockefeller, choosing it in part because, as a minimalist work of art, it had no special meaning behind it.
“It is,” Little Rock Mayor Haco Boyd said of the sculpture.
“Standing Red” isn’t the only sculpture with a house in Little Rock that has been moved. “Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge” by renowned British artist Henry Moore was moved for cleaning and repair, Ramirez said.
The sculpture, which was located at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Louisiana Street in downtown Little Rock, will be moved to MacArthur Park to a location near the new museum building when it opens, Ramirez said.