In a deal coined the “Museum Bowl,” the Clark Art Institute and the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) engaged in a friendly wager on Super Bowl XLIX back in February. A three-month loan of an iconic piece of artwork was on the line. The Clark, rooting for its native New England Patriots, wagered Winslow Homer’s West Point, Prout’s Neck, a majestic New England seascape largely considered one of the best Homer pieces on collection at the museum. The SAM offered Albert Bierstadt’s Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, a grand landscape of the Pacific West. Last Friday, a full 75 days after the last seconds of Super Bowl XLIX, which crowned the New England Patriots as its champion, the Clark was finally able to unveil Bierstadt’s Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, celebrating both regional pride and friendly competition.
I was extremely eager to get a glimpse of the Clark’s new addition, as were the rest of the art aficionados who shipped up to the museum on Friday for the official “reveal” of Bierstadt’s masterpiece. Although the event was not as packed as I originally anticipated it would be, the unveiling brought out a heavy crowd, all yearning to catch a glimpse of the bet’s payoff. The Puget Sound is a wonderfully large piece, depicting an eight-foot landscape of the coast of Washington, as well as a historical representation of an age-old maritime tradition. Although an entrancing art piece, I was more excited to be there to see the physical “payoff” of the Museum Bowl bet than to see the Puget Sound itself.
That is when I realized why the piece had created so much buzz — it wasn’t that it was a highly-awaited piece that the Clark had been struggling to obtain, it was that they had won it in an extremely entertaining fashion. For those who don’t remember the game, or chose not watch it, the Patriots won on a late interception at the goal line, halting Seattle’s hopes inches away from back to back Super Bowl victories. Even Richard Rand, the Clark’s Robert and Martha Berman Lipp Senior Curator, made clear the anxiety many of the employees had toward the end of the game. “I have to admit that in the last few minutes of the game, we began thinking about what it would take to crate and ship our Prout’s Neck to Seattle,” Rand said.
What was clear to me, from all the art-goers at the Clark on Friday, was that New Englanders have a certain pride about them, and winning this friendly wager was no exception.
“I’m sure Malcolm Butler didn’t realize it at the moment, but his heroics were a tremendous gift to New England art lovers as well as to football fans,” Rand said. The Bierstadt painting serves as a wonderful addition to the Clark’s collection and will surely bring in flocking crowds eager to see the payoff of the Museum Bowl bet. That’s another point scored for the good guys – meaning New England, of course.