From left to right: Robert Henri's "Irish Girl" (1927) and "Patience Serious" (1915) (courtesy Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens and the Cincinnati Art Museum, bequest of Mr. and Mrs. Walter J. Wichgar)

Mostly, we art nerds like to leave sports to the outdoor kids, but an ongoing wager between two museums shows that anyone can get into the Super Bowl. California’s Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens put it all on the line for the LA Rams, against the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) betting on the Bengals, with each institution offering to loan their Robert Henri paintings to the other for an exhibition.

Cincinnati is home to “Patience Serious” (1915), whose eponymous young girl is clad in Rams’s blue (or close enough). If you squint at the Huntington’s “Irish Girl” (1927), the orange trim on her white dress can perhaps approximate the tiger-branding of the Bengals. It’s a head-to-head Henri match-up made to fit Sunday’s big game. It was a nail-biter of a contest that ultimately crowned the Rams as victors (23-20), despite a good deal of trash-talking from CAM.

Patience Serious has been waiting a long time to see her friend. After the Bengals take care of business on the football field on Sunday, she’s invited to Cincinnati for a play Dey,” CAM director Cameron Kitchin wrote in a statement ahead of the game. The museums later exchanged social media taunts in real-time throughout the game.

Like all good sportsmen, at the end of the game, Cincinnati Art Museum conceded with class.

“It was a great game, and raising the stakes with our art bet made it even better,” a CAM spokesperson told Hyperallergic. “Our little ‘Patience Serious’ will enjoy her time visiting the west coast.”

This marks 10+ years of museum Super Bowl betting, a tradition initiated in 2010 by art journalist Tyler Green, who suggested the idea of museums from Super Bowl team cities betting to loan paintings on the outcome of the game. Max Anderson, director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, took up the call, and rallied New Orleans Museum of Art director John Bullard into betting New Orleans’s “Ideal View of Tivoli” by Claude Lorrain against “The Fifth Plague of Egypt” by J.M.W. Turner from IMA (unfortunately for Indy, the Saints came marching in.) It’s great to see this tradition still going more than a decade later, and proving that there’s art stakes on Super Bowl Sunday, even higher than multi-million dollar ad spots.

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Sarah Rose Sharp

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit —...