While the mayors of Seattle and Denver have salmon and green chile on the line, the directors of the art museums in the two cities have put up iconic statues in a wager on the NFL championships.
Christoph Heinrich, director of the Denver Art Museum, said the fever surrounding Super Bowl Sunday is an opportunity for both cities to show off what makes them special, on and off the field.
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If Seattle were to win, Heinrich said Monday that he will send a Frederic Remington bronze of a cowboy on a bucking bronco to Seattle for three months. Heinrich calls the small statue, which is so detailed that wind seems to be ruffling the horse's mane and the rider's moustache, "one of the stars of our American West collection."
'There's an emotional connection to art, like there can be for sports' - Kimerly Rorschach, Seattle Art Museum
Kimerly Rorschach of the Seattle museum said in a telephone interview that when the idea of a bet was raised, she immediately thought of a Remington bronco.
"I want the trophy of their mascot," she said. "Then, I thought about what's the equivalent in our collection."
If the Broncos win, Rorschach will send an elegantly carved Seahawk mask, embellished in black, blue and red paint, from her museum's North Coast Native American collection to Denver for three months.
"But of course, it's not going there," Rorschach said in the genteel museum director's equivalent of trash-talking.
The losing museum will pay for the costs of packing and shipping the piece to be loaned. That would include a courier to accompany the bronze, Heinrich said. But he said he wasn't thinking about shipping logistics "since we'll win."
Mayoral bets also include art
In the event of a Broncos win, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said he would send Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock salmon, Dungeness crab, a bicycle made by Rodriguez Bicycles in Seattle and auction off a blown-glass piece by internationally known Seattle artist Dale Chihuly to benefit a Denver program for the homeless. Murray will also wear Broncos pajamas in public if the Broncos win.
Hancock is putting up green chile, Denver's favorite fiery stew; a hoodie; ball cap; and handmade skis. Should the Broncos lose, Hancock will also auction off a Denver-themed item to support the Seattle-based Lifelong AIDS Alliance and wear an ensemble put together by the Lifelong AIDS Alliance thrift shop.
Denver is encouraging all business owners to light up their buildings in orange and blue. Even the home of the Colorado Supreme Court has "Go Broncos" banners, and a buffalo statue at the history museum is wearing a giant Peyton Manning jersey. Airport trains are playing a recorded message from cornerback Champ Bailey asking them to "Unite in Orange."
Blue and white flags in groups of 12 — representing the "12th man," the fans — are sprouting around Seattle.
Denver's museum director Heinrich jokes that he would have gone for a bigger bet if his museum, instead of the city, owned Mustang, a giant, red-eyed, blue horse sculpture that will be familiar to anyone who has driven near Denver's airport.
An eerie mystique has grown up around the piece since its sculptor, Luis Jimenez, was crushed and killed by the horse during its construction.
In return, Heinrich suggested Seattle put up Jonathan Borofsky's Hammering Man, a metal kinetic sculpture that towers over the art museum there. Seattle's Rorschach chuckled at the idea of offering a piece so central to the museum's identity.
"There's an emotional connection to art, like there can be for sports," she said.