Saturday, August 18, 2007

Golden State Mutual's Art Auction

These murals, part of those painted by Charles Alston, and Hale Woodruff, are not for sale. They grace the walls of the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company at 1999 West Adams and are staying put. The first mural is titled "The Negro in California History: Exploration and Colonization." Biddy Mason is in it, along with James Beckworth.

The second mural is "The Negro in California History: Settlement and Development." More information and pictures are available at

Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company is shipping much of the rest of its collection of African American art to New York for auction.

The LA Times reprinted a Bloomberg article about this by Lindsey Pollack, but left out several paragraphs at the end, which might make a difference in how the sale is perceived:

"Golden State was not an ideal home for the fragile and rare artworks.
``Golden State is not a museum. There is no temperature control,'' said von Blum[Paul von Blum, a senior lecturer in African-American studies at the University of California], who recalled finding a Betye Saar artwork lying face down in a closet.
``I got the sense they didn't care about it,'' said Bruce Picano, who cataloged and organized the collection in 2004, when he was an art history student at UCLA. He found art hanging in awkward locations and behind filing cabinets. Some of the most important work was locked in a vault, away from public view.
The building itself was in disrepair, with peeling paint, a broken drinking fountain in the lobby and stained carpets, Picano said. ``The collection had been ignored for a long time.''

Here are more links, if you're interested in the artwork:

  • Alston also painted murals at Harlem Hospital for the Federal Art Project

  • Biographical article about artist William Pajaud, who assembled—and contributed to—the collection
  • Swann Galleries has their auction schedule online, but the catalogue of Golden State’s art costs $35

  • If you’re a member of AskArt, you can see images of the works going to auction (including this drawing “General Moses, Harriet Tubman” by Charles White)

Finally, company histories of Golden State Life Insurance are at the corporate website and in an online article from The Dallas Weekly.

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