Friday, March 3, 2017

"Sell the Bierstadts?" Plaintalker March 1, 2017

From today’s Ledger by Jeff Goldman for the Star-Ledger .The boldface and comments in red are mine.

“Plainfield is seeking permission to sell a pair of valuable paintings to fund a program that provides students money for college, according to a report.

The paintings, which hang in the city’s municipal courtroom, are worth several million dollars apiece, said. Key phrase, ‘several million dollars apiece”. What ever happened years ago to the millions the city received when the Sewer Authority was sold? Never had an audited accounting.

Since Dr. J. Ackerman Coles gave Plainfield the paintings as a gift 98 years ago, they are held in a trust, according to the report.

A court must give approval to modify the trust. Plainfield has sent an application to the state Attorney General’s Office seeking approval to make the changes needed to put the artwork on the market, the report said.

I am not aware of any resolution by Council which I believe is necessary under our charter authorizing administration to take such action. Should not public input take place before any action? Shades of the State giving permission to close the Hospital. Yes there were “hearings” but they were just to accommodate the law and were meaningless due to a fait accompli. Even this charade is being ignored. And we complain about Trump!!!!

The two paintings by German American artist Albert Bierstadt are “The Landing of Columbus” and “autumn in the Sierras.”

The program, the Plainfield Promise, would give kindergarten students in the city a bank account to help them start saving for post-secondary education while learning how to manage money, the report said.

As I wrote in my comment to Bernice’s blog about this “sale”. We are no better than the Nazis with their book burnings, The Taliban destroying the Giant Buddhas of Bamiyan , ISIS destroying the antiquities of Palmyra, The Spanish inquisition destroying all written records and religious artifacts of the nations in Central and South America; when we let our governments dispose our historic treasures for money used for political motivated personal enterprises,

We have to resist any attempts by religious organization, private f actions and governments to rewrite history  by eliminating references to the past. 

Addendum 11:47am:
Error in today’s “Clips”
Typo should have read “steal” my interpretation or “sell” which is what Dan intended


  1. BRAVO Doc. There is so much wrong with this, too numerous to even list, but you covered many valid points.

  2. Sir, Your words are clear and direct to the point. May we use your statement on Queen City Pride Plainfield NJ Facebook page so those who do not follow the blogs, will be able to read the words of our senior statesman. Thank you Timothy Priano

    1. TIMOTHY, Comments via the blogger do not permit a direct reply. If you send me an email address which I will keep confidential I could send you an OK.

  3. The purpose of the court hearing is legally necessary to see if the city actually has the authority to sell the paintings. It would have to go before the public and city council. As Bernice said, we should wait and see what the court says. Doc, it is sadly surprising to hear you make a comparison to Nazi Germany. I don't know if I think the paintings should be sold for educational or other purpose or kept, but I should hope that you wouldn't call someone a Nazi sympathizer if I agreed that maybe the city should sell. The vitriol is not necessary. Maybe nothing will happen. Maybe something will happen. Maybe the paintings will be leased or something. But comparing the city to Nazis is over the top.

    1. Much of Germany's history and culture was intertwined with the Jewish presence in Germany from Feudal times. The burning of books was designed to eliminate that history. The destruction of many outstanding synagogues that were unique architectural master pieces destroyed cultural treasures equal to many still standing cathedrals.

  4. Hi Doc,

    I often agree with you, but the line about the Nazi book burning is way overboard. Whether this is good for the city or not is one question, but it does not rise to the level of the Nazis. We need to look at this with level heads and decide if this is worth while or if money can come from someplace else.

    Bob Bolmer

  5. With all due respect, Doc, I don't think I read in the blogs about destruction or burning anything. I read about a potential sale of one or two art paintings, maybe they would go to a museum? Or maybe the money could be used for tax relief for some years or to a needed community center. I have to hear more before using that N (nazi) word applied to this.

  6. Even a first year law student could tell them they CANNOT change the terms of a trust. Judge going to laugh them right out of the courthouse. Hopefully sanction the lawyer too for this foolishness.

  7. Obvious my using the Nazis for an example was misconstrued and for that I am sorry. All examples were national destruction of cultural/historical objects. Yes these paintings are not being destroyed; what will be destroyed is in this case is another of the city's few remaining cultural possessions for dollars that will be squandered for a egotistical project even though it has idealistic goals. We have an Historical preservation commission for real estate; artifacts should be entitled to the same protection. If the people want the educational trust, then it should be supported by taxes. As Trump would say "SAD".

  8. Timothy O'ConnorMarch 4, 2017 at 9:54 PM

    This may not be a book burning by the Nazis but it is stealing art. When did the mayor become art critic? What is deemed offense by some is considered a master piece by others. Lets remember Jessie Helms' attack on art that he did not understand!!! We should use this art to teach our children about what happened and how we still have a long way to go.