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Artists of Toledo

Toledo Museum of Art’s Controversial Unconscionable Tragic High-Profile Deaccessions

“These works of art were clear choices for the Museum to deaccession, due to very similar and/or higher quality works by the same artists represented in TMA’s deep European collection,” a museum representative told Hyperallergic. Hyperallergic.com, Elaine Velie, April 27, 2022

Controversial Unconscionable Deaccessions
by the Toledo Museum of Art

a timeline journal of the unconscionable deaccessions of the French Impressionist paintings, including articles in national publications, Artists of Toledo blog posts, comments and emails 

April 23, 2022

This is the story of the deaccession of three very popular paintings at the Toledo Museum of Art, and Mrs. McKelvy’s legacy. “She had the courage to acquire only works of art she liked and always considered that one day her collection would be the heritage of all of us in this community,” Director Otto Wittmann said in 1964 of the gift to the museum of her valuable French Impressionism collection, which she put together with an educated feminine eye. She was more than a collector, she supported local artists who went on to influence the very fabric of our community. For example, the great artists and teachers, LeMaxie Glover and Diana Attie. But the museum is selling her Renoir, without even a nod to her importance to our community. Maybe because she’s a woman….

Goodbye Matisse Renoir and Cézanne

Subject: The great art heist of 2022
From: penny gentieu
Date: 04/23/2022 12:01PM
To: rdurant@tps.org

Dear Dr. Durant,

Good afternoon! I wrote a new page on the website, Artists of Toledo. I would love for you to read it. It’s about the sale of our masterpieces through the perspective of one of the donors, Mrs. McKelvy, and how she helped to support talented Toledoans. We know how the Board feels, please consider how the community feels.
I would love to hear back from you. Thank you for your time.
Sincerely,
Penny Gentieu

Subject: Re: The great art heist of 2022
From: rdurant@tps.org
Date: 04/23/2022 12:12PM

Hello Mrs. Gentieu,

We appreciate this great testament of Toledo art history. I am sharing this with the TMA Education Committee and our TPS Foundation.

Thank you for sharing,
TPS/ Toledo Proud!
Sent from my iPhone

Subject: Re: The great art heist of 2022
From:Adam Levine <ALevine@toledomuseum.org>
Date: 04/24/2022 10:06AM

Thanks for sharing Dr. Durant.
Penny, as you may recall from our meeting of more than a year ago, I have an open door.  I would have been delighted to discuss our decision-making with you, including the history of Mrs. McKelvy’s collection not included in your narrative, before you published this.
Have a wonderful weekend, all.
Best,
A

April 25, 2022

The Blade’s excellent editorial today about why the Toledo Museum of Art should keep its Cézanne, Matisse, and Renoir. Bravo, Blade!

Editorial – Toledo Museum of Art should keep its top tier

The Blade, Editorial Board, April 25, 2022 

Selling off Paul Cezanne’s Clairière (The Glade); Henri Matisse’s Fleurs ou Fleurs devant un portrait; and Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Nu s’essuyant simply makes no sense. These and other proven lasting works draw people to the museum from near and far.

Every museum director retains the right to pursue their own paths as Adam Levine is doing. Yet the museum is an integral part of Toledo’s art culture. The museum is not in a vacuum. While privately maintained, the museum does represent Toledo to the outside world.

Fund-raising campaigns are a constant in the art world and a campaign to raise funds to diversify the museum’s collection makes more sense than throwing storied works into the market to be lost forever to Toledo.

Building a better, more inclusive future for museums does not need to come at the expense of the top tier of its current collection.


April 27, 2022

Covering the director’s memo mistake. A new blog post on Artists of Toledo. Our brand new woke Toledo Museum of Art. Guess what? Your new branding is old.

Covering the director’s memo mistake


April 28, 2022

A very interesting article just published in Hyperallergic about the Toledo Museum of Art.

I remember that last year, Adam Levine was quoted as saying he wanted to better represent the population of our country, but now apparently he needs to reflect the entire world. “A collections audit indicated the greatest imbalances exist across gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, nationality and geography, and material/medium,” reads TMA’s press release. “The newest additions reflect the Museum’s commitment to adding artworks of the highest quality that reflect the diversity of world history.” As if they need to impose the power that they have to influence the public about what kind of art is relatable to who.

We should do what they did when this happened in Baltimore — people made them withdraw the artwork from the auction. See the link in this article.

The Toledo Museum of Art Is Deaccessioning Impressionist Works to Diversify Its Collection The Ohio museum is planning to auction off three paintings by Cézanne, Renoir, and Matisse with the goal of “broadening the narrative of art history.”

Hyperallergic.com, Elaine Velie, April 27, 2022


April 28, 2022

Baltimore Museum of Art uses COVID as cover to sell a Warhol. Floodgates open by art critic Christopher Knight published in the Los Angeles Times nine days before the Baltimore Museum pulled their paintings from the auction block. I have similar thoughts about our deaccession, that our director’s overzealous actions are covering director’s infamous George Floyd memo mistake and I wrote this last night: http://artistsoftoledo.com/…/covering-the-directors…/
But anyway, just one little interesting tidbit from Knight’s article:
“Deaccessioning concerns have been on the rise for many years. Alarmed, the American Alliance of Museums accepted a white paper on the subject last year.
The document is clear: Deciding whether to deaccession an object should be made ‘separate from the process of deciding how to use the proceeds.'”
Toledo Museum of Art decided what they were going to do, then they decided which paintings to deaccession….
Baltimore Museum uses COVID as a cover to sell a Warhol. Floodgates open

Los Angeles Times, Christopher Knight, October 19, 2020


April 29, 2022

The museum should save our famous French Impressionist paintings from the auction block.

Open Letter to the Toledo Museum of Art Trustees

Open letter to the Toledo Museum of Art Trustees


May 1, 2022

Our famous French Impressionist paintings thrown out the door.

They are getting rid of the good art and diminishing our museum.

Here’s a link to a blog page that lists many of their diverse and contemporary acquisitions in the past 10 or so years http://artistsoftoledo.com/…/covering-the-directors…/

I think most of the people running the museum are brand new. It’s like giving the keys to a Maserati to a kid with a learner’s permit. The museum doesn’t even have a curator who is a specialist of  Impressionism. And of course nobody except for the historian really understands the depth of the art education ties to the community that made this museum so special. Nor do they understand the importance of such patrons as Mrs. McKelvy, who meant for her collection (including the Renoir they are selling) to be for the community’s benefit. She gave scholarships to many, including three artists who became beloved teachers — Sister Jane Catherine Lauer, LeMaxie Glover, and Diana Attie. McKelvy’s father was the third president of the museum, and her son Charles was a museum trustee until he died in 1999.

They love their off-site programming so much, they could take these three masterpiece paintings and put them on an art mobile that they should acquire next, from one of the many endowments they have, and they could drive it through the various neighborhoods that they so desperately want to reach out to, perhaps with some music over the loud speaker, and they could give away free ice cream as an enticement to look at the art. And that will promote equality and inclusion. Just a thought. Ha ha. I’m kidding again. P.S. These paintings could very well be lost to some rich billionaire in Russia or China, and we’ll never see them again. Maybe that’s their plan. So sad. And that’s no joke.

Why don’t they just change the name to the Promedica Museum of Mediocre Art and get it over with. Just kidding.

We have two Rembrandts, should we decide which one is better and sell the other one? Same with van Gogh — we are very rich with our two van Goghs, should we let one van Gogh go and buy an object from 12th Century Southeast Asia instead, because it’s “art without bias?” Are we too Miro-rich? I counted over 50 works by Miro.

Who gets to vote? The two Matisse oil paintings are equally as beautiful, in my opinion. And as for the Renoir, it is important to our collection because it is the only painting we have that is representative of his late period. Also, the removal of this painting breaks apart Mrs. McKelvy’s female-eye-curated collection of art that she gave to our community, (interesting that the Matisse they are keeping is also from her). Mrs. McKelvy was a great patron of Toledo artists, which matters very much, and to break up her collection is to break up her memory. I wonder what Diana Attie thinks, our great drawing teacher who got her start with a scholarship from Mrs. McKelvy. McKelvy’s father was President of the museum, and her son was a trustee until he died in 1999. I think this heritage means quite a lot as to who we are as a community.

These are all highly popular valuable paintings that we should not be getting rid of, for any reason. Toledo Museum of Art is one of the most richly endowed museums in the country. The museum buys new art all of the time. They should just make do! And they should stop with the attention-getting theatrics already!


May 7, 2022

Pulitzer Prize winning art critic Christopher Knight’s commentary in the Los Angeles Times on the deaccessioning of our Matisse, Renoir and Cézanne.

Commentary: An Ohio museum is holding the biggest sale of artwork yet.
It’s unconscionable

Los Angeles Times, Christopher Knight, May 6, 2022

I know those paintings. As a graduate student in the mid-1970s, I was a fellow at the TMA. Back then, it never occurred to me that the word “permanent” in the museum’s stellar permanent collection apparently meant 67 years, max.

The marvelous Cézanne, a nearly abstract spatial structure built from flat, planar brushstrokes of green, blue and ochre, even has an irrevocable bid. An unidentified buyer has a murky financial interest in the sale and, if outbid, gets compensation from the auction house for putting up the irrevocable bid in the first place.

Coincidentally, a pivotal 1993 Kerry James Marshall painting, “Beauty Examined,” hits the auction block two days after Toledo’s pictures, consigned to Sotheby’s …… Marshall, as a Black American, insists that the legacy of white European painting is as much his as anyone’s. “Beauty Examined” seamlessly — and analytically — melds elements drawn from sources as diverse as Rembrandt, Charles White, Paul Gauguin and Yoruba court art.

Levine asserted that a Cézanne sale had been discussed internally for years, and market realities made the difference in pulling the trigger now.

The for-profit market today leads much of the nonprofit museum world around by the nose. But the core museum mission is collecting, researching and preserving great art, and a conservative strategy of privatizing irreplaceable public assets in the name of liberal progress is backward. The Toledo sale is unconscionable.


May 9, 2022

While the Art Institute of Chicago puts on a major Cézanne exhibition, our museum treats our precious art by Cézanne, Matisse, and Renoir like a stock portfolio, where the market conditions are ripe, and Adam Levine tells us it’s time to “pull the trigger.” Really insensitive considering that so many Toledo children are being murdered with guns.

Time for a new director, from Toledo this time, who cares about art and the people, and not his own personal agenda.

Paul Cézanne, a Painter’s Painter: A major exhibition of the French master explores his role in the invention of modernism

Wall Street Journal, J.S. Marcus, May 9, 2022


May 16, 2022

Thank you Jason Webber for writing about the Toledo Museum of Art deaccession tragedy again, and thank you for interviewing me and including the link to my “Open letter to the Toledo Museum of Art Trustees.” They are running the museum like a big corporate business instead of like an art museum that should be putting the art first. “This is the world we live in,” said John Stanley. It’s money, money money – we sure DO understand how it is in the world we live in – don’t we ever!

Controversy surrounds Toledo Museum of Art sale of three paintings

The Blade, Jason Webber, May 16, 2022

Diversity is achieved through addition, not through subtraction,” Mr. [Christopher] Knight said. “Removal of the works from the collection does nothing for diversity. There are ethical guidelines in the field that concern reasons for deaccession and increasing diversity is not among them. “I am a huge supporter of diversifying collections, but this is just a quick fix. It’s a high-profile fix. One could say that it’s performative rather than substantive. It looks like you’re doing something, when the question remains are you really doing something by taking great works of art out of a collection.”

Toledo artist Penny Gentieu recently posted an open letter to the TMA trustees advising them not to go through with the planned sale. In the letter, Ms. Gentieu stated she believed current museum Director Adam Levine’s emphasis on diversity was a public relations move designed as damage control to stave off criticism when the museum refused to publicly take a stance on the 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Ms. Gentieu said she has not received a response from TMA about the letter.

“The Toledo Museum of Art has always been inclusive and diverse and free for all walks of life,” Ms. Gentieu said in an email. “The director, Adam Levine, made a colossal mistake after the George Floyd murder, telling the staff that they are remaining neutral. To cover up for his mistake, he dove headfirst into rebranding the Museum to be inclusive with diversity. So now his big plan to attract attention to himself is to sell off three great world-class paintings from our permanent collection.”

Former TMA director John Stanley, who serves on the art committee of the Museum board of trustees, said he thought the deaccession was “a brilliant idea” when it was presented by current TMA director Adam Levine.

“What’s their understanding of how these three paintings, in particular, relate to other paintings or objects by those artists in our collection,” [John Stanley] said.

“This is the world we live in,” Mr. Stanley said.


May 17, 2022

John Stanley of the Toledo Museum of Art said, to paraphrase, what do those people who oppose the deaccession of the Renoir, Cézanne and Matisse paintings know about art?

Well Mr. Stanley, we know what we like! The Metropolitan Museum in New York has a bunch of oil paintings by Renoir, Cézanne and Matisse. But they are not as cool as the Toledo Museum of Art, who now only has one of each.

And Christopher Knight, mentioned in the article, is a Pulitzer Prize winning art critic who won his prize in 2020 for his excellent criticism of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Google his articles — he’s a great writer with a great mind!

I guess the next thing the Toledo Museum of Art will do is divest itself of all the extra Rembrandts, van Goghs, Miros (of which they have 50 pieces alone!) etc., to make MORE big money.

When John Stanley, who was only an interim director at TMA after Director Brian Kennedy skipped out of his contract and the museum had to go looking for a new director on the quick, which turned out to be Adam Levine, was at the Whitney, how many Edward Hopper and Jasper Johns paintings did he deaccession, since they have so many?

The Tate Museum has how many Turners? They have nine rooms of them!

Saying that the TMA needed to divest themselves of multiple artworks by the same artist is a bunch of hooey! I’d like to see that in their museum guidebook! It’s merely an excuse to make a boatload of money.

“This is the world we live in,” said Mr. Stanley. Not a convincing reason to sell off major artwork. I don’t think these paintings have any bias, either. These paintings are biased, really? They certainly have beauty. But biased? Au contraire!

I just wonder who has them now, since we will probably never see them again.

Mr. Stanley said of the deaccession, what do those people who oppose the sale know about how the painting relates to the sculpture in their collection? It was a brilliant idea! “This is the world we live in.” Did they throw in the Renoir late-period nude oil painting just for show, as a symbolic gesture – the sacrificial painting? A distraction?


May 18, 2022

Wonder how it turned out that the two most valuable paintings were bought by the same buyer? Who was it? And what did they have to do with the museum before the paintings were put up for auction? A fair question. It needs to be investigated, as a matter of public trust.

A Marie-Therese Painting by Picasso Achieves $67.5 million at Sotheby’s

Barron’s, Abby Schultz, May 18, 2022

The Toledo Museum of Art sold three works to fund future acquisitions that realized US$59.7 million, with fees. In addition to the Cézanne, which sold just above a high estimate range, the museum sold Henri Matisse’s Fleurs ou Fleurs devant un portrait, for US$15.3 million, with fees, after a more than seven-minute bidding battle, to the same bidder who purchased the Cézanne—a collector on the phone with Helena Newman, Sotheby’s worldwide head of impressionist and modern art. 

3 Toledo Museum of Art paintings sell for $51.2 million at auction

The Blade, Jason Webber, May 18, 2022


May 25, 2022

A museum’s stellar Impressionism collection rented out to a casino!!

Is it a “brilliant idea,” as TMA John Stanley was quoted in The Blade May 16 article, Controversy surrounds Toledo Museum of Art sale of three paintings regarding the sale of our Cézanne, Matisse and Renoir, for an art museum to rent out 21 French Impressionist paintings from their stellar collection to a casino in Las Vegas? Well yes, apparently John Stanley thought that was a “brilliant idea” as he arranged it as COO at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, in 2003. Wow. Artwork meant for the public used in a Las Vegas casino for a percentage of the admissions revenue.

Now we have the unconscionable sales of popular, valuable and famous paintings from our museum, with the Cézanne and Matisse paintings sold to the same buyer, shrouded by Sotheby’s secrecy, a broken chain of provenance, the public blindfolded as paintings are ripped from the permanent collection. Public trust flies out the window.

How do museum insiders really feel about it?


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