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Here’s what happens when art museums bet on sports

Lauren Katz is a project manager at Vox, focusing on newsroom-wide editorial initiatives as well as podcast engagement strategy.

Art museums like sports, too. The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts can look forward to a new piece temporarily joining its collection thanks to winning a Super Bowl bet against the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). The New England Patriot's 28-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks secured the museum Albert Bierstadt's "Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast" (1870):

Albert Bierstadt (German, 1830–1902), "Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast," 1870. Oil on canvas, Seattle Art Museum. (Photo: Howard Gisk)

The Clark and the SAM placed a bet in advance of Super Bowl XLIX, according to WBUR. If the Seattle Seahawks had won, the Clark would have loaned out Winslow Homer's "West Point, Prout's Neck" (1900).

The losing museum has to loan their painting for three months and pay all shipping and expenses, according to the Berkshire Eagle.

Seattle Art Museum curator Chiyo Ishikawa and Richard Rand, curator at the Clark, initially suggested the wager. The curatorial staffs of both museums decided which paintings to wager, according to Sally Morse Majewski, public relations and marketing manager at the Clark. They looked for parity both in terms of subject matter and the quality of the painting, she told Vox in an email.

Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910), West Point, Prout’s Neck, 1900. Oil on canvas, Clark Art Institute (Photo: Mike Agee)

Before the game, The Clark's Rand told the Berkshire Eagle that he would rather see the Bierstadt in New England than have one of his museum's Homers go to Seattle.

"It is a completely fantastic painting, and unusual because Bierstadt is usually associated with landscapes in the Yosemites and the Rocky Mountains," he said. "It would be a wonderful guest of honor and it will be very exciting for our public — we can't often see works by Bierstadt in New England."

WBUR points out that the SAM made a similar bet with the Denver Art Museum for last year's Super Bowl. The Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos 43-8, winning the opportunity to display Frederic Remington's "Broncho Buster" for three months.

Majewski says time will tell if the Clark starts thinking about future bets.

"Perhaps if the Red Sox are in the World Series, we might consider it," she sayd. "It's been a great way to open up the world of art to sports fans."