Art Wager On Super Bowl Not About The Monet

We take a look at the bet made by two museums on the outcome of the Super Bowl and look at to what degree this marks a shift in gambling's social acceptability


Betting on Super Bowl XLIX has been fast and furious in the last week before game time, the Patriots and Seahawks both getting the sort of fanatical backing that successful sports teams can always count on. Their loyal supporters placing bets on how the game is going to go, not just in terms of full time score, the winners and losers if you will, but also on nearly every other facet of the game. To look through the options available to those that like internet betting in the US, it seems to be a choice that goes on to infinity and beyond.

Whether you bet on the exact score in a particular quarter or who does what first, or last, or not at all, whether you back a team or a player to achieve whatever whenever during the game, or indeed wager precisely the opposite, the fact is that the game itself is offering up an array of markets that attract more than just the ardent fans and their team-supporting betting. The Super Bowl offers a good arena in which one can enjoy an occasional wager.

Perhaps akin to the Grand National in the UK, an annual horse race upon which it is traditional to “have a little flutter” regardless of how much you take part in gambling throughout the rest of the year, the Super Bowl has risen above the somewhat grubby image of sports betting per se and allows many people to have a friendly, nay social, bet or two without appearing to friends and family as if they’re about to become embroiled in a casino-based gangster movie.

The fault for that, of course, lies at the feet of popular culture that has constantly used gambling as a prop (pardon the pun) in the sort of nefarious circumstances that reflect badly upon it. Even the suave sophistication on legs that is James Bond never seemed able to even visit a casino without having to fend off assassins, avoid the femme fatals or have to play cards with a man in too much hair gel that wants to take over the world.

The Touchdown Of The Internet Gambler

The somewhat ridiculously anachronistic US gambling laws reflect this popular perception of gambling being a little seedy and dangerous, but it’s a reputation born out of a world in which casinos were a salient feature of the landscape, of a time when one either visited Vegas or Atlantic City or made use of illegal avenues for wagering, of a world that, frankly, doesn’t really exist anymore. The era of the bricks-&-mortar casino is gone even if they’re made of steel and glass.

The internet has thus far destroyed record shops as we all download our tunes instead, is has obliterated bookshops, as we order from Amazon, and even the high street retail business has begun to see it’s profits eaten into by lower-overhead rivals online and the monstrous spectre of eBay. That it will not also crush the casinos out of all but the most quaint of gambling markets (no one is suggesting Vegas will become a casino-free zone any time soon) is a disturbingly silly notion.

Museums Wager Paintings On Super Bowl
Seattle & New England bet loan of art on game
• Will Homer’s or Bierstadt’s work travel
• Art world always a gamble

Whilst casinos do provide a sense of occasion and an atmosphere difficult to replicate at home online, the fact is we as a species are more than willing to swap those intangibles for the security, comfort and ease of gambling online. Indeed the only reason online wagering is not more widespread is that the owners of these outdated palaces to the farming of gamblers have spent lots of money to stop it spreading. Their vested interest one of holding back the tide of progress.

Not that their efforts will halt the rise of sites like Bet365 and their ilk. The number of people willing to gamble at home far out-stripping the number of those who will travel specifically to do so, their market is far larger and that will almost certainly lead to a knock-on effect of it becoming more and more acceptable, but that may well require the tarnished casinos and racinos to fade away into a bygone era of gangsters and corruption rather than hanging around like a bad smell ruining everyone else’s fun.

Monet Makes More Money Than Marshawn

Not that you can spoil the Super Bowl. Marshawn Lynch kicked off the fun by giving the same answer 29 times on Super Bowl media day. He repeated “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” as a response to every question demonstrating that whilst fining a sports star $50,000 can make him follow the letter of the law, you can’t force him to enter into the spirit of things. Of course plenty of other people ARE entering into the spirit of things with two museums gambling news of their wager will attract more visitors.

The Seattle Art Museum and New England’s Clark Art Institute have bet each other the loan of a famous painting on the result of Super Bowl XLIX proving that if there’s a bandwagon going by the art world will leap upon it with abandon. Whether those in Seattle get to see Winslow Homer’s “West Point, Prout’s Neck” from 1900 or New England will host Albert Bierstadt’s “Puget Sound On The Pacific Coast” of 1870 matters very little, the publicity alone made it all worth while.

That we don’t all leap around in dismay at serious sensible institutions staking the location, albeit temporarily, of our cultural history on the outcome of a sporting event probably indicates the degree to which gambling is coming out of the closet and brushing the light dusting of tainted-casino off its shoulders. When even the staid world of fine art is joining in there really isn’t much further one can go toward social acceptability, but you’d still not catch a museum curator dead in a casino. Well. Not THAT sort of casino.

Tuesday sees Claude Monet’s painting of the Grand Canal in Venice, aptly titled “Le Grand Canal”, go under the hammer at Sotherby’s auction house where it is likely to fetch around $40,000,000, and whichever extremely wealthy buyer ends up owning it they’ll be gambling news of its value in the future is higher not lower than the price they paid. The Super Bowl always garners huge gambling interest, and a wealth of bizarre prop bets, and there will be one or two who bet big on the game, but the really wealthy? That 1% we keep hearing about? They bet on art, and when it comes to art, Monet is where the money is.

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