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Museums Betting Big

February 18, 2022
A young girl in a blue dress

Patience Serious by Robert Henri

This past weekend, Cincinnati and Los Angeles got all the attention as their respective football teams faced off in the Super Bowl. Millions of dollars are lost and gained in betting on the Super Bowl every year, and it seems like everyone gets in on the action… even the cities’ museums! The Cincinnati Museum and Los Angeles’s Huntington Library each wagered a painting from their collections over who would emerge victorious on Sunday.

What made this particular wager an interesting one is that the two paintings are both by the same American artist, Robert Henri. Ironically, the Cincinnati painting shows a girl dressed in the blue of the Los Angeles Rams, while the Huntington painting shows a different girl dressed in the red and white of the Cincinnati Bengals. With the Rams triumphing over the Bengals, Robert Henri’s Patience Serious will be on its way as a loan to Los Angeles to be reunited with Irish Girl.

This is not the first time museums have bet on the Super Bowl. The tradition started in 2010 when the journalist Tyler Green suggested the idea. That year, the Indianapolis Museum of Art bet J.M.W. Turner’s Fifth Plague of Egypt against the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Ideal View of Tivoli by Claude Lorraine. Since then, whenever art institutions decide to participate in what many call the Museum Bowl, they’ve tended to choose a work representative of their city. For example, the Broncos’ 2014 loss to the Seahawks resulted in the Denver Art Museum loaning Frederic Remington’s statue The Bronco Buster to Seattle. I can’t lie, I got a little giddy when I saw the wagered artworks. They all had subjects representative of the team or the city itself. And hopefully, in the future, museums will continue this tradition with a little more frequency to show off some pieces from their collections that are often looked over.