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Artists of Toledo

August open letter to the museum

A lot of brave Americans fought and died under the American flag…Toledo is Jeep country, after all. Have some respect.

Open Letter to the Board of Directors of The Toledo Museum of Art:

A burnt flag with a cartoon-like drawing of a black man pasted into it is a terrible insult to this country, to our community, and to me personally. But the Toledo Museum of Art has added such a work to their recent acquisitions. Interestingly, it was previously owned by the family of the curator of modern and contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum. Adam Levine had to draw upon four endowment funds to pay for it, and three of the deceased benefactors whose art funds he drew upon served our country in World War II. In fact, almost everyone in our community has ancestors, family members, or else they themselves have fought under the American flag. Some people have just moved to our country, to our city, with a desire to live under the ideals of the American flag. For the museum to buy a burnt flag to hang on the museum’s wall, telling us they are collecting art that reflects our community, is disgusting.

There are many reasons why the Toledo Museum of Art should not have bought this “painting” besides the deeply hurt feelings of the community, including that it is stated in the U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8, Respect for flag, (g): The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.” And here it is in the Ohio Revised Code Title 29 Section 292 2927.11 – Desecration (A): No person, without privilege to do so, shall purposely deface, damage, pollute, or otherwise physically mistreat any of the following: (1) The flag of the United States or of this state. Yet The Toledo Museum of Art celebrates, with their expensive purchase shaming deceased donors, the disrespect and desecration of the flag.

Here is my blog post about how deeply offensive this acquisition is, and about the deceased donors from whom the funds were pulled to purchase it, whose memory it deeply dishonors: Marvin and Lenore Kobacker, Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Barber, Mrs. George W. Stevens, and Florence Scott Libbey and her father, Maurice A. Scott — Why a burnt flag painting is wrong.

Here are other important issues I wish to address:

  1. What about the remote stewards (workers) of our museum? Since when are the people who run the Toledo museum too good to live here? Along with the spokesman about the sale of the French Impressionist paintings, John Stanley, a retired temporary consultant without an art degree who came from New York who I am pretty sure does not live in Toledo, I’m referring to the Communications Manager who lives in Lansing, the Brand Director who lives in Boulder, the consulting curator of African Art, Lanisa Kitchiner, who works full time for the Library of Congress in Washington DC (who doesn’t have an art history degree), and the consulting curator of Ancient Art, Carlos Picón, who is the director of the Colnaghi art gallery in New York and an ancient art dealer. I wrote a blog post about it, about our authentic story, and about the museum’s treatment of the local artist community. The Remote Control of Our Museum Culture.
  1. What about the $54 million from the Cézanne and Matisse deaccessions that had been purchased with the Edward Drummond Libbey Endowment Fund? Shouldn’t that have gone back to the Edward Drummond Libbey fund to be used on new acquisitions? Where did that money go? Is it in a new endowment as stated by Adam Levine in his April 8 announcement of the deaccessioning of the three French Impressionist paintings? If so, what is the name of the fund? And if so, why is it not back in the Libbey fund, and what financial institution handles that fund?
  1. Will the museum and/or board members be making an investigation into the sale of the Cézanne and Matisse paintings that sold at auction collectively for $59 million to the SAME buyer, as reported in Barron’s Magazine (but not in The Blade for some reason)? What are the odds? Since this puts a cloud of corruption hanging over the museum in regard to the possibility that the sale was prearranged with the buyer, the museum and board should investigate and make public the buyer to clear the museum’s reputation, if that would be the case, since our museum should be beyond reproach. What valuable paintings will be the next to hit the auction block? These outrageous deaccessions of valuable historic paintings that were literally taken off the museum walls and sent to the auction house, an action rationalized by the museum director’s lies to the public, and the huge amount of money made by the sale – that for us not to know who bought the paintings, or whether or not the sale was prearranged, is unacceptable. Is our collection being used as a catalog for future collectors? It’s a good way to hide backroom deals. It’s a good way for our museum to be robbed of its great artworks.
  1. Why has the radius of the museum’s community outreach and interest shrunk to only 2 miles, when the area that the museum serves is vastly larger? In 2014, the museum claimed that their reach was a 150-mile radius, when they increased the area of the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition to reach out to the major cities such as Detroit, Cleveland and Columbus. Before that, our community was defined by the 95-year old annual show as being 17 counties in Northwest Ohio and two counties in Southeast Michigan. The two-mile outreach defined now is not even 1/6th of the city of Toledo, not to mention the other many counties surrounding Toledo. Why isn’t the community equally represented on the Belonging Committee? In the museum’s latest manifesto about plans for community “belonging” there is nothing at all about the new local artists gallery that was heralded in The Blade in June 2021, for which Robert and Sue Savage donated $200,000 to renovate a gallery space that would have their name on it. A photo was taken with the mayor, director, and Robert and Sue Savage to memorialize the commitment.  The Robert and Sue Savage Gallery for Local Artists.  Are artists not a fundamental part of the art museum? Why aren’t local artists invited to “Belong?”   Museum Shows for Local Artists. 

In summary, there should be a special oversight looking over our museum right now. Our museum does not belong to outsiders, nor to just a fraction of the community, it belongs to ALL of us, the entire Toledo community. The people who run the museum ought to live here! That people who run the museum are “too good” to live here robs our city of culture, progress and money. Our museum is not a vehicle for outsiders to mold into something for their own personal benefits and gains. They are ripping us off! Conflicts of interest should be disclosed on every level, from the purchase to the sale of artworks, to the business relationships of the board members with the museum; from communications involving the museum and the press, to the curation of our community stories. There must be full disclosure for every move the museum makes. The people who run the museum have a fiduciary responsibility to our Toledo institution, and lying to the public is a breach of their fiduciary duty.

Thank you for your time. I hope you are having a good summer.

Sincerely,

Penny Gentieu

One reply on “August open letter to the museum”

No way for southern people but we were free people who built slaves passages to freedom, this would not sit well with other proud toledeans. NO WAY

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