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12 November 2006



kay, this one isn't so much a brain teaser as it is a little story. The painting below entitled "The Gross Clinic" by Thomas Eakins has hung in the Thomas Jefferson University for 125 years. Everyone who has entered TJU knows the painting well. It actually is a Philadelphia icon. Eakins painted it in Philly and in 1875 the Jefferson alumni bought it for $200.

"The Gross Clinic is one of the great American masterpieces and its resonance in Philadelphia is incredibly profound," said Anne d'Harnoncourt, director and chief executive officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "With its drama and force of character, it sets the tone for Eakins' entire career. His art is inextricably bound to Philadelphia, its people and its landscape. And what is really powerful is that his presence and influence are still so extraordinary here nearly a century after he died."

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So why am I presenting this painting today? Remember that the alumni bought it for $200 in 1875. Today Thomas Jefferson University is selling it to a partnership of the National Gallery of Art in Washington and a new museum planned by Wal-Mart heirs in Arkansas.

The price tag? A mere $68 million dollars. A testament to present day greed. I am going on record protesting the sale.

The deal gives Philadelphia cultural and governmental institutions 45 days to match the price; failure to do so will see the painting taken down from the walls of Jefferson's Eakins Gallery on Locust Street and shipped from its only home.

The culprit? Wal-Mart heiress Alice B. Walton (net worth of $18 billion, according to Forbes magazine).

Another reason I refuse to shop there.
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