New Deal Artworks Pulled From Iowa Auction Will Stay at Local Museum

On November 17, 2009, a loan agreement for 15 New Deal Era artworks was signed by GSA’s Fine Arts Program Office (FAP).  An updated agreement was developed between the Blanden Memorial Art Museum in Fort Dodge, Iowa and the FAP for the care and display of the artwork.  The previous agreement had been signed in 1935 by the Museum and the Federal Emergency Relief Agency.  The collection of artwork was unknown to the FAP prior to this investigation and is valued at approximately $19,000.  The artwork also has significant historical value.

On October 7, 2009, investigators in GSA OIG’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office received information from an art enthusiast in Fort Dodge, Iowa about an auction scheduled for October 10, 2009, by the Blanden Memorial Art Museum in Fort Dodge, Iowa.  The art enthusiast had concerns about how the museum directors were handling the auction, and believed some of the artworks were federally owned Works Progress Administration (WPA) items that were going to be publicly released at the auction.  The art enthusiast asked if GSA could stop the auction.

A letter was sent by GSA OIG investigators to the director of the Blanden Memorial Art Museum, advising her of GSA's ownership of any federal art at the museum and asking her to remove any federally owned art pieces from the auction.  The director sent a reply listing 15 pieces of federally owned artwork and advised that none of them would be sold.  Eight of the 15 were on the publicly available list of items to be auctioned.

GSA OIG investigators notified the FAP staff and forwarded them copies of the 1935 loan agreement that had been received from the museum.  The FAP was not aware of the artwork and had no record of the 1935 loan agreement.  GSA OIG investigators put the FAP in contact with the museum in order to facilitate updating the loan agreement.