January 1, 2012

Art Review: 'Muralgate' topped unforgettable year in Maine art

A critical look back at Maine art in 2011 and a view of 2012.


(Continued from page 1)

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“Rocky Projection at Sea” by Edward Hopper, from the Hopper exhibition at Bowdoin College

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Josephine N. Hopper Bequest 70.1310 © Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper, licensed by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Photography by Jerry L. Thompso

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The new Rose Contemporary fine art gallery in Portland

Courtesy of Rose Contemporary

Additional Photos Below

Unquestionably, the art story of the year was Paul LePage's already infamous seizing of Judy Taylor's "History of Maine Labor" mural. Most striking is that despite the international press about the issue, the real story is largely lost in a fog of misinformation and misunderstanding. The most embarrassing art event of the year, for example, was the panel at the PMA (including several people mentioned above) that didn't even address who owns or paid for the mural (the federal government using Reed Act funds), Maine law, federal law (e.g., VARA), or the murky First Amendment exception known as "government speech" later invoked by Attorney General Schneider and LePage.

"Muralgate" has only become more interesting since LePage, a defendant in an active federal court lawsuit about the mural, completely reversed his story on national television.

As an art historian, I can tell you right now that "Muralgate" will be discussed in law and art history classes for generations. But while I think LePage's seizing the mural was ethically and legally despicable, I have to point out that he actually increased funding for the Maine Arts Commission. Bizarre as it sounds, that is actually the feather in his job-creation hat.

Despite the fact that it's hidden, that mural is not about to go away.

Interesting times, these are.

Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at:



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Additional Photos

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“Island (Ship’s Stern)” by John Marin, 1934, from the Marin show at the Portland Museum of Art

Private collection, courtesy Meredith Ward Fine Art, New York. © Estate of John Marin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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The rejuvenated Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport

Contributed photo

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The Frederick Fisher design for a new wing at the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville.

Courtesy Colby College Museum of Art

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