Categories
Artists of Toledo

Toledo’s broken promise to the Cezanne Exhibition in Chicago

Cezanne Exhibition, Art Institute of Chicago
May 15 – September 5, 2022

While the Toledo Museum of Art does nothing — there has been no Art Matters quarterly member magazine since January, no Robert and Sue Savage Community Gallery as promised to us in May 2021, no blockbuster shows in the Canaday or Levis exhibition galleries that mostly have been empty, except for a couple of uninteresting shows —  the Art Institute of Chicago is having its third blockbuster exhibition since the pandemic began in 2020 — El Greco, Monet, and now the most important Cezanne retrospective in 16 years.

We saw it. It was great. It gave me a renewed understanding as to why Cezanne is called a painter’s painter, why he is considered the father of modern art, and why he is so highly regarded, even among the new generation of artists.

Wondering if the curators had asked to borrow one of our Cezannes for the show, we found the answer in the published catalog – a beautiful definitive book aptly titled Cezanne. There in the book on page 154, reproduced on a full page, was our Avenue at Chantilly, Catalog #83 listed for the Chicago show. On the acknowledgement page, among 70 other museums, the Toledo Museum of Art is thanked for making their work available for display in the exhibition.

But for the past several months since this show has been up, Avenue at Chantilly has been hanging in Gallery 35 at the Toledo Museum of Art, and not in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Cezanne Exhibition! Wondering if I had somehow missed our painting at the Chicago Cezanne show, I called the Toledo Museum of Art to check to see if it is on display in Toledo, and I was assured that it is indeed on display, in Gallery 35.

I wonder if the reason why it is not in Chicago is because the Toledo Museum of Art made an abrupt decision to deaccession our other Cezanne painting, The Glade, after the museum committed our only other Cezanne to the Chicago’s Cezanne retrospective. Weren’t we assured that deaccessioning was a thoughtful, long process? Apparently not in this case, as the book went to press in 2022 (or very late 2021, as the book was dedicated to one of the curators who died in November 2021. )

It seems that our museum felt so much guilt about their rash decision to deaccession the painting that they broke their commitment to their peer museum and pulled it from the exhibition after the book went to press.  As Director Adam Levine informed Toledoans on April 8 when he announced the shocking deaccessions of not only their only other Cezanne painting, but of their other Matisse painting and a Renoir bather, the museum’s only other Cezanne painting and Renoir painting and Matisse painting would always be on display on the walls of the Toledo Museum of Art.

What would make the Toledo Museum of Art break a promise to important colleagues and peer institutions — the other museums in the United States that they so much want to make an impression on in their 5-year plan, to be a great example of a museum that all other museums would look towards as an example of how all museums should be?

Quotes from the Toledo Museum of Art’s 5-year plan —

The Toledo Museum of Art will become the model art museum in the United States for its commitment to quality and its culture of belonging. 

By authentically connecting quality with belonging, TMA can become one of the museums in this country from which others learn.

TMA’s transformation will be heralded by the press and will set the bar for museum peers. 

How does that make Toledo trustworthy or how can they ever expect to be a good example to other museums? Will other museums be willing to loan paintings to Toledo in the future after this, if Toledo ever has the wherewithal to put together a traveling show?

World-class exhibitions that speak to 21st century issues will draw Northwest Ohioans and out-of-towners alike, with tourists shocked and delighted to be welcomed by a diverse and empowered staff so clearly loving what they do and the institution they serve. TMA’s exhibitions will depart Toledo to traverse the globe, providing the Museum and its hometown the visibility it once enjoyed.

In Christopher Knight’s May 6, 2022 COMMENTARY: AN OHIO MUSEUM IS HOLDING THE BIGGEST SALE OF ARTWORK YET. IT’S UNCONSCIONABLE, he interviewed Director Adam Levine, who told him that market realities made the difference in pulling the trigger right now on the deaccession of the paintings.  What would the market realities be, I wonder, that would make the Toledo Museum of Art renege on a commitment as important as lending Avenue at Chantilly to Chicago’s seminal exhibition on Cezanne?

Strangely, two of the paintings that were suddenly deaccessioned – the most valuable ones – were bought by the same buyer at the auction on May 17, as reported in Barron’s the evening of the auction. Could it be that there was a collector who told the museum they would buy the paintings, now or never, and the museum didn’t care about anyone – the public or their peers?

It is a gross thought that Toledo Museum of Art might be cannibalizing itself. They have tarnished their reputation among peers by reneging on a promise while lying to the public about the reason for the deaccessions. Edward Drummond Libbey did not advocate that the museum have only one example of a great artist’s paintings. The paintings were not “mediocre.” Adam Levine invoked a Libbey quote to support the sale: “Let the multitudinous array of the mediocre be relegated to the past and in its place be found the highest quality, the best examples and the recognition of only those thoughts which will stand for all time.”

That so-called mediocre painting brought $41.7 million at the auction proving its greatness. What’s more, our Toledo museum did not need the money! Chicago owns 9 Cezanne oil paintings, Detroit owns 5 Cezanne oil paintings, Cleveland owns 3 Cezanne oil paintings, now we own only 1, and that painting was supposed to have been in Chicago’s Cezanne Exhibition, but it wasn’t, after it was promised and after that promise was memorialized in a book. Our museum let down a national community from seeing it! The museum let Toledo down, because Toledoans would have felt proud to see our painting hanging in the show, but instead this makes us feel shame and embarrassment for living in Toledo. 

Just another lie when Toledo gets credit in the book for being in the show.

Perhaps Adam Levine doesn’t mind breaking promises – he certainly doesn’t mind lying to us – when our museum still gets credit in an important Cezanne book for being in the show – why not pull it out of the show — it was too late to make corrections — the opportunity of selling our other Cezanne painting — was it to a demanding secret buyer who just couldn’t wait four months until the show was over, was that the “market reality” that was just too good to pass up?  One can only speculate, but an investigation needs to be conducted to find out the truth.

Adam Levine had a fiduciary duty to preserve our valuable collection for the future, and he should never have reneged on a commitment to lending our Avenue at Chantilly to an important public show. The Art Institute of Chicago is the true example of what all museums strive for — this show is the third blockbuster they have put on since the pandemic. Our museum, under Adam Levine’s leadership has done nothing but sell off our great French Impressionist paintings, creep out most of Toledo with their burnt American flag acquisition, and make our city a laughing stock of the art world.

We should save our museum and save our city’s reputation by changing course now with new leadership at the museum.

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.

Categories
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

Categories
Artists of Toledo

Put the Rebel Flag in the Museum

Why a burnt American flag is all wrong for the Toledo Museum of Art

Beauty without bias?
Quality does not discriminate?

In what universe does a burnt American flag qualify as quality? How does it not discriminate? in whose eyes is it beautiful? Is it not biased against our country and most of the citizens?

My letter to the editor of The Blade

Re: Toledo Museum of Art announces 27 new acquisitions

Dear Editor,

Concerning your article about the museum’s new acquisitions – the museum recently sold our magnificent three French Impressionist paintings from our esteemed collection for 57 million dollars to buy new diverse art, and one of the first paintings that they bought is a portrait that has a burnt American flag as a background.

 There are a lot of people in the Toledo area who are patriotic and love our country, including many veterans who fought in wars defending our country, including the Civil War, who would not like to see a painting of a burnt American flag in our great Toledo Museum of Art. My great great grandfather was a French immigrant who joined the Union Army and fought and was wounded in the Civil War because he wanted to do his part to help free the slaves.

If the museum thinks that a burnt flag painting is going to enhance The Toledo Museum’s new “sense of belonging” and “tell the story of the Toledo community” and enhance our “sense of inclusion,” they have sadly only achieved offending most of the Toledo community. 

 If this new burnt flag painting is the TMA’s idea of telling the Toledo story, in their “new transformative Toledo Museum,” that supposedly strives to be a reflection of our community, they are wrong and can count me and a lot of Toledoans out.

Penny Gentieu

About my great great grandfather
who fought in the Civil War
and the meaning of the American flag

Toledo Museum of Art – how about a little gratitude for the 360,222+ including 36,000 black Union soldiers who gave their lives in the Civil War to free the slaves? My great great grandfather’s life was forever after consumed by the horror of the Civil War that he fought in. It became a part of him. Hence, it is a genetic part of me. I can’t help but be offended by the image of a burnt American flag. It is the opposite of beautiful. I can’t accept that my Toledo Museum of Art is advocating the destruction of my country, which my immigrant ancestor came to with so much hope, fighting for this country while not even being a citizen, and starting the Gentieu family here.

Pierre Gentieu was interviewed about the Civil War at age 87 in 1929: 

In 1929, a reunion proposed for Union and Confederate soldiers was dismissed by the Grand Army of the Republic, because Union soldiers did not like it that the veteran Confederates still used their old flag in public ceremonies, whereas the Union veterans thought that the flag should be abolished.

“Put the the rebel flag in a museum,” said my great great grandfather Pierre Gentieu, the Commander of the Smyth Post No. 1, Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Delaware.

Pierre said that all veterans, North and South, are brothers. “A good many are bitter against the reunion but I am not. We are all for the Union now – we are all brothers, and must consider our relationship in this light. It is of no use to fight now, and we must forget the bitterness of the past.”

“You must actually fight under a flag to learn to love it and respect it. You don’t know what it means to see it waving in the smoke of battle, representing the ideal for which you fight. Why, it is the soul of the regiment. I will never forget it.”

“I remember one particularly bitter battle to which we were advancing as reinforcements. We had been marching steady for a long time and were rather tired. And suddenly we came upon the scene. Not far away the battle was in full progress… people were killing each other mercilessly… and suddenly, through the thick smoke… just over the hill… we saw the flag! We knew that we were supposed to plunge right in and fight – with death, and yet, we forgot all about that and with a cry we were right in the midst of everything!”

“I don’t blame the Grays a bit for wanting to preserve their flags, and I believe in a reunion with them. But their flag should not be used in public. I’m absolutely opposed to that! The rebel flag should be preserved in a museum as a relic of the old days. That is the only place for it.”

My message to the new Curator of American Art at the Toledo Museum of Art

Dear Erin Corrales-Diaz,
A burnt American flag is not a good addition to the Toledo Museum of Art. How could you let that painting through? Didn’t you write your dissertation on the Civil War, and all wounded soldiers in it, and the art that came from that? Don’t you know that the subjects of your dissertation had blood pumping through them? They were fighting under that flag — the American flag. Unless your main focus was the injured soldiers of the Confederacy –– how can you be supportive and approve the acquisition of the painting of the smirking cartoon-like black portrait pasted on a burnt American flag?
We sell our Cézanne, Matisse and Renoir so that you, as the Curator of American Art, along with the other curators/art committee/director/board of directors, all so very collaboratively can have a field day collecting really offensive, junky art!
You don’t know our community. I can tell you that this painting does NOT reflect our community. Do you live in Toledo?

Museum diversity today

Toledoans are told that the museum wants to better reflect our community and they are buying art so that the community can see themselves on the walls.

Kerry James Marshall is a great artist who makes beautiful large paintings that would speak to our community, but this painting, unlike any other of his paintings, says the wrong thing. It’s totally off-brand.

Toledo is experiencing a record-breaking spike in gun murders and violence, and much of it is gang related. This painting exploits negative stereotypes of African Americans. The purchase of it for the walls of our great museum flames the fire of destruction, exploiting our community even further. The museum plans to use it for programming – the museum will run programs around it?

Our museum is known for having only the best examples of an artist’s work — we were told they sold our Cézanne, Renoir and Matisse because they had another painting of each artist that was voted by the board to be better. What a shame that our museum bought this painting to represent this artist instead of a painting that the artist intended to be on a museum wall – it’s not like the museum didn’t have the money – they cleared $57 million from the impressionist paintings to be spent on new art. – But they have yet to spend any of that money.

What did the museum pay?

The burnt flag painting was advertised on an Artsy catalog page for Lusenhop Fine Art at this year’s EXPO Chicago 2022, along with other works of Kerry James Marshall on the gallery’s EXPO Chicago 2022 page, and the highest price shown for any of them (except for two sold, which were not marked) is $55,000. According to the news story, the museum bought it from Phillip Gant, “a prominent Chicago-based collector.” He is the father of Kimberli Gant, the new Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art . (The Brooklyn Museum does not have a Kerry James Marshall painting in their collection, and I can only assume that they passed on this one.)

The Toledo Museum of Art must have paid a fortune, because the museum drew from four art acquisition funds to purchase it:

Jamar Art Fund of Marvin and Lenore Kobacker  In 1970, Marvin and Lenore paid for a 17th-century furnished room from a French chateau, which was installed in the museum. The room was deinstalled around 2017. The money from the Kobacker art fund was then used for a Larry Poons painting, a glass and mixed media piece by Amber Cowan, and this burnt American flag. I’m not sure the Kobackers would like that. Before they were married, they both served their country under the American flag during World War II, which was a war that fought global superpowers on two fronts. We helped defeat the Nazis. Lenore Kobacker was in the WAVES and Marvin Kobacker was a lieutenant in the Navy. Lenore died in 1991 and Marvin died in 1993.

Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Barber Art Fund  Mr. Barber served in the Amy Air Corps during World War II fighting against Nazi takeover. He was the president of the Perrysburg Township Republican Club in the 1960’s, and the Wood County Republican Party chairman. He spearheaded the reconstruction of Fort Meigs, a United States stronghold during the War of 1812. He was a great supporter of Delbert Latta, who was the representative for the 5th congressional district for 30 years, and the father of the current 5th congressional district representative. The Barbers endowed the Early American Gallery at the Toledo Museum of Art. Mrs. Barber died in 1994 and Mr. Barber died in 1999.

Mrs. George W. Stevens Fund  Nina Spalding Stevens, along with her husband, George Stevens, ran the museum from 1902 until he died in 1926. She died in Paris in 1959.

Florence Scott Libbey Bequest in Memory of her Father, Maurice A. Scott  Florence Libbey was one of the founding benefactors of the museum, and this endowment, second in size only to Edward Drummond Libbey’s endowment fund, pays for perhaps $400,000 worth of new art every year. in 1931 early in the Depression she put many Toledoans to work building the additional wings to the museum, including the Peristyle. Her father, Maurice Scott, once owned the land upon which the museum sits. Florence died in 1938, Edward died in 1925 and Maurice died in 1905.


A memorial service was held in the Peristyle for Mary Wolfe, a major donor to the Toledo Museum of Art, on November 30, 2014. The front several rows in the audience were filled with Toledo philanthropists. Mary Wolfe looked out at us from the screen.

I wonder how the dead donors would feel, and how their descendants feel, to see their philanthropy used to buy a burnt American flag for the Toledo Museum of Art. This painting is an extremely dishonorable way to remember them by.  Three of the donors served their country – our country, in World War II that defeated the Nazis. Can you imagine how the world would be today if we didn’t win? If burnt American flags were all the rage? If loving your country was declasse? The other two donors were founders of our great museum.

What happened to Toledoans running their own museum? Why are we letting outsiders take control and treat us like a political anthropology project?  Is it the beginning of the end for our great Toledo Museum of Art? Should we picket outside the museum to save the museum?

“The superpower that an art museum has is when something goes up on the wall, it’s considered good. We set the canon,” Levine said. “By displaying these artworks, we not only center them in the narrative of American art history and art history in general, but by acquiring them, we demonstrate that they are of superlative quality, on par with everything else in this museum. This is an opportunity for us to recognize the value of artists who haven’t been given the opportunity historically to be showcased at institutions like ours.”  – Adam Levine, ‘Beauty Without Bias’ At The Toledo Museum Of Art, Forbes, February 28, 2022

How much did our museum pay for this painting that they plan to build programs around?

What other anti-American, radical attention-getting antics will the Toledo Museum of Art pull at the expense of our community?

Who was the secret buyer of our Cézanne and Matisse? Was the sale pre-arranged? Why didn’t that money go back in the Libbey Endowment Fund or else why wasn’t it spent on new art? More questions…

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