Greenspan to receive award at Monticello

The unmistakable face of the American stock market, whose every word investors hung on through the turbulent and high-flying 1990s (and later hung on their walls, thanks to a local artist), will be at Monticello tomorrow to accept the Thomas Jefferson Foundation's first-ever Medal in Citizen Leadership.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greespan, 81, was appointed in 1987 by Ronald Reagan and served until he retired last year. Unlike the Chairmen that proceeded (Paul A.Volker) and followed (Ben Bernanke) him, Greenspan became as much a celebrity as a government economist. That had alot to do with the Internet boom in the mid-90s, during which, thanks in large part to creation of online trading, millions of Americans began playing the market and looking to Greenspan for signs of where it was headed week-to-week.

In fact, Greenspan's visage became so iconic that when UVA art student Erin Crowe painted a series of unauthorized portraits of the Fed chairman in 2003-2004 (see photo left), as part of a local arts festival with a money theme, they sold faster than early shares of Google.

In 2005, Crowe organized a "Good-bye to Greenspan" show at a gallery in Sag Harbor, N.Y. , an enclave of Wall Street heavy-hitters, in the hope of earning a few bucks before going to grad school. She presented 18 of her Greenspans and within a week she had sold all of them for between $1,000 and $4,000, caught the attention of the national media, and was receiving requests for commissioned portraits of the Wall Street sage. In large part, the paintings tapped into the reverence that Wall Street professionals felt for Greenspan. As one successful hedge fund manager told the Washington Post in 2005, after buying one of Crowe's paintings, "A huge part of Wall Street gives Greenspan the credit for much of the financial successes they've had the last 18 years. And I thought the paintings were an interesting tribute." Apparently, interest in portraits of the droopy-eyed economist hasn't wavered. Crowe went on to hold another Greenspan show in 2006 at the Broome Street Gallery in New York, and currently sells Greenspan prints on her website.

Crowe, currently studying in London, couldn't be reached for comment, but Gallery Sag Harbor owner Rebecca Cooper, who distributes Crowe's Greenspan prints, says there is still strong interest in the Greenspans.

"I always get calls, inquiries, but the Greenspans are all sold out and very few people want to sell the ones they did acquire," she says. "Because there weren't very many paintings to begin with, there was a small supply and a lot of demand. Within the last several months, I have, on occassion, negotiated a sale between private parties." Cooper also mentions that new Crowe paintings are available of Warren Buffet and Fidel Castro.

In a private ceremony at the West Portico of Monticello on April 13, Jefferson's 264th birthday, UVA president John Casteen will pay tribute to Greenspan. Earlier in the day, the Foundation's traditional awards for architecture and law will also be handed out. The architecture award will go to Iraqi-born Zaha Hadid, who became the first woman to receive the architecture world's highest honor–the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The law award will go to Anne-Marie Slaughter, current Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, who writes and teaches on global governance, international criminal law, and American foreign policy. She is the author of A New World Order, which looks at the way world governments have changed the way they communicate and do business since the end of the Cold War, and most recently The Idea that Is America: Keeping Faith with Our Values in a Dangerous World.

There will also be a grave-site ceremony on Friday, which is open to the public, featuring former governor and current director of the Miller Center for Public Affairs Gerald L. Baliles, and music by the U.S. Army's Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.

2 comments

This town is in such need of a hero. Alan Greenspan . . . Is this article a joke? I must be on candid camera as I type this.

What a joke. Let the stroking begin....