The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, has announced that it will not buy a Los Angeles insurance company’s murals after weeks of speculation about their fate. Officials had hoped to acquire the murals for an African American history museum set to open in a few years.
You might remember the mosaics of artist Millard Sheets in Home Savings and Loan branches. Black-owned Golden State Mutual Life ordered up its own larger-than-life-size depictions of early Californians inside its LA headquarters on West Adams.
Golden State commissioned the works by Hale Woodruff and Charles Alston more than 60 years ago. It also amassed a notable collection of African American art. Now Golden State is in liquidation; the company put its art collection up for auction three-and-a-half years ago.
The Smithsonian’s interest in the murals upset preservationists who want the works to stay in LA. Smithsonian officials acknowledged that concern in a statement read during a court hearing. The museum had planned to spend $750,000 toward removing the murals; appraisers had valued them at $5 million. Later meetings will determine whether the murals stay in place - or move elsewhere.