PHOTOPHILE- Interest rate: Greenspan lauded at Monticello<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>
The symbol of the American stock market, a man whose every word captivated investors through the turbulent and high-flying 1990s (and whose mug later adorned their walls, thanks to a local artist), came to Monticello Friday, April 13, to accept the Thomas Jefferson Foundation's first Citizen Leadership medal.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greespan, 81, was appointed in 1987 by Ronald Reagan and served until he retired last year. Unlike the chairman who preceded him (Paul A.Volker) and the one who followed (Ben Bernanke), Greenspan became as much a celebrity as a government economist.
That had a lot to do with the Internet boom in the mid-'90s, during which– thanks in large part to the 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 face became so familiar that when UVA art student Erin Crowe painted a series of unauthorized portraits of him in 2003 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 family friend's gallery in Sag Harbor, N.Y., a plush enclave that plays host to many Wall Street heavyweights. In just a week, she had sold all 18 of her Greenspans for between $1,000 and $4,000 each, caught the attention of the national media, and was receiving requests for commissioned portraits of the Wall Street sage.
Apparently, interest in portraits of the droopy-eyed economist hasn't wavered. Crowe, currently studying in London, says she has sold 32 more paintings since then, one for as much as $150,000 (which went to charity). She was recently flown to Hong Kong for a Greenspan show, where she was asked to paint some of China's financial gurus. She has also received her first order for a Bernanke.
"There is a cult of Greenspan," says Crowe. "I hit a nerve and am still surprised by the continued responses I get."
Crowe says she has never met Greenspan, but that may be just as well.
"I think I may have scared the poor man," she says. "I've heard he's a little camera shy, and I can only imagine what he thought of my capitalizing on his media image. Or worse yet, I sometimes worry about what his wife might have thought."
In a private late-afternoon ceremony at the West Portico of Monticello on April 13, Jefferson's 264th birthday, UVA president John Casteen paid tribute to Greenspan as the sun was setting.
"I wish I could have been there to see him," says Crowe. "But I've sworn not to paint him any more... so perhaps it's best I didn't let myself get tempted."
UVA president John Casteen
Waiting for the presentation
Casteen confers with Greenspan
The man who moved markets
Monticello executive director Dan Jordan
Greenspan's wife, NBC journalist Andrea Mitchell, enjoys the festivities.
Tulips were blooming on Monticello mountain.
ALL PHOTO BY WILLIAM WALKER