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Artists of Toledo

Looting and the Toledo Museum of Art

Toledo Museum’s new culture of belonging does not mean they can keep looted belongings of another culture.
Photo and description from the book published in 1900, Antique Works of Art from Benin Collected By Lieutenant- General Pitt Rivers, D.C.L., F.R.S., F.S.A. Inspector of Ancient Monuments in Great Britain, &c. page 34. “Figs. 100 and 101. – Bronze cast of human head. Marked negro features, rudely formed. Three tribal marks over each eye. Peculiar pointed reticulated head-dress of coral or agate. Curious lines of incised circles above and below the eyes. Coral choker, badge of rank. Bands of coral or agate hanging down on both sides and at the back. Ears badly formed. The projecting base ornamented with a guilloche pattern of two bands with pellets.” See, Yale Library webpage here..

For a museum that vies to be a forward-thinking museum desiring to set an example for all other museums to follow, why hasn’t the Toledo Museum of Art returned the stolen Benin Bronze to Nigeria yet? It was stolen in 1897, so they’ve had plenty of time! If they want to set the example then they’ve missed the boat, since Benin Bronzes are already being returned by U.S. museums, including the Smithsonian, The Met and Boston.

It was stolen by British colonial troops who invaded Benin City in 1897. It was then sold to General Pitt Rivers, a collector, who started a museum with his new collection of looted art.

For an overview on looted art, see Hyperallergic’s October 4, 2022 story, John Oliver Roasts Western Museums in Episode on Looted Art  regarding “subjects like hesitant repatriation, antiquities looting, and the shady acquisition practices of auction … citing grisly colonial histories and contemporary looting schemes.”   View the highly entertaining youtube link where you can watch the entire 30-minute episode here.

A page from the Toledo Museum of Art publication – African Tribal Art, 1973, which commemorated the museum’s recently opened gallery, the Art of Africa. While the museum had owned examples of African art for 15 years, it had only then, in 1973, acquired enough to form a gallery solely devoted to the art of the vast continent. The Benin Bronze was one of the first African objects it acquired, in 1958.
The African Image, Toledo Museum of Art’s 1959 show of African Art, put together from the collections of 37 museums and private collectors.

Toledo’s Benin Bronze came from the Pitt-Rivers Museum in 1958, right before the museum closed. This museum was General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-River’s personal museum at Farnham, Dorset, England bearing the same name as the museum started at Oxford University with his earlier bequeathed collection. 

Toledo’s Benin Bronze was featured in multiple African Art catalogs published by the Toledo museum in 1959, 1973 and 1998. But it’s not on display. Why not? Is it because it is so shameful to have this object, but Adam Levine can’t “pull the trigger” (as he so colorfully described his divestment of the museum’s three great French Impressionist paintings last spring for $54 million) to shoot this object back to Africa?

The Benin Bronze featured in the Toledo museum’s catalog, Facing Africa: The African Art Collection of the Toledo Museum of Art, published in 1998.

With Lenisa Kitchiner as the Toledo Museum of Art’s African art consulting curator, who also works full-time for the Smithsonian, an institution that is sending theirs back, it seems odd that Toledo’s Benin Bronze is in limbo — it’s not on display, but it’s not on a plane going back.

Toledo Museum of Art website catalog details, 2022. Not on display.
The museum says one thing but does another.

Just this summer, in the Blade’s 7-26-22 Toledo Museum of Art helps bring stolen antiquities back to owners, in regard to four objects looted from Italy in the museum’s collection, the museum told us that “the process of sending artwork to its home country and leaving the museum’s collection, or repatriation and deaccessioning, is integral to what the museum stands for.”

“The museum has a long history of helping in repatriation processes like these, including an Etruscan water jug caught up in an international trafficking scheme that was returned to Italian authorities in 2013 and a scientific instrument called an astrolabium, determined to have been stolen from Germany during World War II, that was returned to the German government in 2015.”

Toledo Museum of Art’s looted Italian kalpis, 1982 – 2013.
The 2013 repatriation of the Italian water jug

The Etruscan water jug, or kalpis, was sold to the museum for $90,000 in 1982 by Gianfranco and Rosie Becchina, who got it from the infamous Giacomo Medici. You can read about Becchina and Medici in the book, Chasing Aphrodite, an exposé of the antiquity looting at The Getty written by the journalists who had reported on it for the L.A. Times. In fact, this book describes the finding of Medici’s polaroids in 1995, one of which shows this very kalpis still covered in dirt from a recent illicit excavation. It wasn’t until 2012, the day that USA v. One Etruscan Black-Figured Kalpis, circa 510-500 BC, case No. 3:12-cv-1582 appeared online, that the Toledo Museum decided to do what they “stand for,” and send the looted antiquity back to Italy.*

Denying any other looted art in the museum besides the Nereid Sweetmeat Stand which was stolen from the Dresden museum during World War II, bought by the Toledo museum in 1956, and returned to Dresden in 2011, Director Brian Kennedy questioned, should there be an end-date to repatriations? It was his second, but he would oversee a lot more between 2015 and 2019. One was another 1982 acquisition of an Italian drinking vessel obtained from the same looters of this kalpis, Becchina and Medici.*

About the Subhash Kapoor-looted Asian antiquities
The Ganesh, Toledo Museum of Art 2006 – 2014.

The Ganesh was stolen from the Sivan Temple in Tamil Nadu India in late 2005 or early 2006. It was then sold to Toledo Museum in 2006, who returned it to India in 2014, two years after the Manhattan antiquities dealer, Subhash Kapoor, who sold it to them, was extradited to India to await trial for illegally taking antiquities out of the country. Kapoor had also given 48 free objects that the Toledo Museum listed in their 2007-2008 Annual Report as being recent additions to their collection. In this same publication, the museum thanked Kapoor on the donor page for his donation valued at more than $100,000.

Yellow highlights show the Subhash Kapoor gifts to the museum, which the museum added to their collection. The museum would claim later that it had never added most of these in its collection. See, here. Hmm. The blue brackets point out two of the purchases, including the pictured vessel which was also featured in the 2009 Toledo Museum Masterworks book.

This Subhash Kapoor episode is well-documented on the blog, Chasing Aphrodite, which is written by one of the authors of the book of the same name, mentioned above. Quote from the blog:

The Toledo Museum of Art told the New York Times that it had received a gift of 44 terracotta antiquities from Kapoor in 2007. The only object that appears in a search of the museum’s online collection is a terracotta vessel purchased in 2008. The museum published the object in 2009 in a book of the museum’s masterworks, but offers no ownership history other than saying it was created in Chandraketugarh, an archaeological site north-east of Kolkata. Where was it before Toledo? What are the ownership histories for the other 43 objects acquired from Kapoor?  –– Chasing Aphrodite

The museum replied to Chasing Aphrodite’s July 2013 inquiry with this:

“Our policy is to respond to requests about objects in the TMA collections made by official authorities such as museums, law enforcement agencies, foreign governments and those making legal claims to ownership,” spokeswoman Kelly Garrow** told me. “There have been no such inquiries to date in regard to the objects referred to in your email.” In other words, in Toledo’s view the public has no right to know the ownership history of objects in the museum’s collection, even when serious legal questions have been raised.

The museum came clean about their dealings with Kapoor in March 2014, attributing their decision to the information given to them by Chasing Aphrodite, even though the museum stonewalled their inquiries for two years and told them that they don’t have to answer to the public.

Subhash Kapoor gave a lot of free gifts to various museums, including The Met. The Met has several of these freebies listed as 20th Century. They are replicas – fakes. Kapoor would smuggle into the U.S. the real stuff packed in boxes of replicas, and the boxes would be marked, “replicas.” [see this Paul Barford blog link for that detail.] 


The true meaning of Belonging

And now we have a young new museum director with a major in anthropology, art history, and mathematics and social sciences, who did his graduate work at Oxford University – home of the Pitt Rivers Museum, albeit the first Pitt Rivers, which itself houses 327 Benin Bronzes according to Wikipedia. Our director, Adam Levine, seems to want to “contribute to the eradication of the illicit market for ancient artifacts.” He wants all museums in America to follow his good example. He’s leading a “Belonging” campaign where he endeavors to make the museum more welcoming by displaying a specially balanced world history in order that everyone will see themselves in the galleries. But this important Benin Bronze historical sculpture from Africa is not being shown in any gallery. Nor has it been returned to Nigeria. And not a peep about it.

The museum’s Belonging Plan states, “it is important to acknowledge the prior inhabitants of the land on which the Museum stands” and “The Toledo Museum of Art created a Land Acknowledgment both to honor the Indigenous peoples who resided on the land before the founding of the physical campus in the early 1900s and to demonstrate support for Indigenous communities of Ohio, celebrate their cultures, and recognize their forced removal from their lands in previous centuries.”

The hypocrites!

Since the sculpture was stolen by English colonialists in arguably the earliest episode of modern-day looting, in 1897, an ambush that captured an entire cultural heritage in artwork, shouldn’t the Toledo Museum of Art be returning this object as fast as they can – (they sure could sell three French Impressionist paintings at lightning speed) – considering the new branding and what the new 2022 Toledo Museum stands for, and to meet the museum’s goals for being totally authentic by 2026.

The Toledo Museum needs to do a survey of all of its works of art and research to find out if any had been purchased from looters or money launderers of stolen artwork, and they need to put online a database of the entire provenance of each work for the public to freely access. They need to do it with the same determination that they gave to the recent audit of their artworks, which showed that “the greatest imbalances exist across gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, nationality and geography, and material/medium.”

The museum should rethink that recent survey – what is the relevance of any of that, and specifically, of the nationality and geography of an object, when so much of that relies on an illicit market, when the museum should not be stealing from other cultures. The museum is, after all, into belonging, and Nigeria should own back their heritage that was stolen by the English colonialists, because it rightly belongs to them. 

And while they are at it, the Toledo Museum of Art should stop looting the local Toledo community of its cultural traditions. They should reinstate the museum’s long tradition of children’s Saturday art classes that had always been for ANY and ALL children in Toledo (2,500 children every week), instead of just a discriminatory few children (25 at the most?) at a specific grant-written outreach after-school childcare program at a library. Return to our Toledo community the century-old Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, that the museum stole from us in 2014 under a cloud of corruption, and give us that Robert and Sue Savage Community Gallery for local artists promised to us in June 2021. The Toledo Museum of Art got Robert and Sue Savage to donate a lot of money to renovate a gallery space for one-person local artist shows 17 months ago, so where is it?


*Museum Ethics and the Toledo Museum of Art, Christos Tsirogiannis, artcrimeresearch.org  Christos Tsirogiannis is a forensic archaeologist who wrote about the kalpis and brought to light the looted Hephaistos drinking vessel in 2017, which the museum did not deal with until 2019.

**Regarding Kelly Garrow, the museum’s former Director of Communications who wrote the 2013 email to Chasing Aphrodite saying that they owed no answers to the public in regard to looted art in their collection, see this interesting 2014 message to this very artistsoftoledo.com blog (scroll down to the comments), where she was inspired to write 10 paragraphs about how the museum did not “fix” the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition of 2014 to add their own employees, and more.

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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.

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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

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…

Categories
Artists of Toledo

The remote control of our museum culture

Culture and Community by Government Remote Control

I am interested in The Toledo Museum of Art’s use of the 57 million dollar profit from the three recently deaccessioned French Impressionist/early modern paintings which they sold to raise money for the purchase of “diverse art.”

The Toledo Museum of Art recently hired a Consulting Curator, Lenisa Kitchiner, for the museum’s African collection. Although the museum doesn’t mention it in their news release, she is the Chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., with an educational background in literature, African studies and politics, not art history.

She will “steward a growing collection of African art at an innovative institution in the heart of the Midwest,” while “creating a collecting strategy that represents the entire community,” and “sharing untold stories and fostering widespread community belonging.” From the June 28, 2022 Toledo Museum of Art press release:

Kitchiner eagerly anticipates joining TMA at such a pivotal time as the Museum endeavors to advance a collecting strategy that represents the entire community. “The opportunity to steward a growing collection of African art at an innovative institution in the heart of the Midwest is extraordinary,” Kitchiner stated. “The Toledo Museum of Art’s commitment to sharing untold stories and fostering widespread community belonging—coupled with its impressive curatorial staff and its unmistakable impact—make it the right place through which to share my passion for the visual arts of Africa.”

I googled Lenisa Kitchiner, the new steward of African art for The Toledo Museum of Art, and discovered that she is the Chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. (It’s a mystery as to why the museum’s press release did not mention that.) Will she be working remotely?

I was struck by her description of her favorite children’s book, which inadvertently connected me to a heretofore untold story that has deep roots in Toledo culture. I share in the spirit of contributing to an ambitious museum’s endearing transition to endeavoring the enduring, relentless sea change of advancing engagement and authentic widespread community belonging, in order to foster pivotal, vibrant, Midwest, ready-to-be-told, it’s-about-time, yes-we-did, storytelling.

The untold Midwest story of Jan Wahl and Maurice Sendak

In the September/October 2021 Library of Congress Magazine article, Lenisa Kitchiner was interviewed for being the new Chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress. She describes her favorite book as a child, Where the Wild Things Are:

I am a lifelong learner, a lover of literature and a consummate traveler. I like to blame it on Maurice Sendak’s children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are,” which indelibly influenced my imagination when I first read it at age 5. The book tells the remarkable story of a little boy who dreams of traveling to a faraway place, encountering monstrous creatures and winning their favor by performing a special magic trick that forces the creatures to suspend fear of the unknown long enough to see the boy as friend instead of foe. I did not have the words to articulate it as a child, but it was that sense of creating new connections, of overcoming fear, of embracing the unknown and of having meaningful impact that I fell in love with when I first read the book. These aspirations continue to influence my engagement in the field.

I was immediately reminded of my old friend Jan Wahl and Artist of Toledo who died in 2019 at the age of 87. A flood of new understanding of Jan Wahl’s life came over me! Looking back at his life, I can now see that, in a nutshell, Jan Wahl was that boy in the book! He traveled to far-away places, he encountered monsters, and he won them over with his creativity. I never really thought of him before as the little boy in Where the Wild Things Are.

As a child living in the Westmoreland neighborhood of Central Toledo, Jan would write to famous people and collect silent films and art prints. In college, his teacher was Vladimir Nabokov. On a Fulbright Scholarship in Denmark, he worked with the Danish director, Carl Dreyer on the making of Ordet (The Word). He then worked for the writer of African tales, Isak Dinesen, whom he didn’t like at all. “She fired me over two misspelled words, after four months of work!”

Jan Wahl was a renowned children’s book author, having published about 130 books. He wrote from the perspective of “a child trying to grasp the unfathomable adult world.” He also wrote memoirs of his silent film experience, including Dear Stinkpot: Letters from Louise BrooksThrough a Lens Darkly, and Carl Theodor Dreyer and Ordet: My Summer with the Danish Filmmaker. He collected fantastic early 16mm art films.

Jan Wahl had some wild stories – such as one about Maurice Sendak taking his idea for a book and making it into Where the Wild Things Are. Maurice Sendak was a mentor and collaborator when Jan Wahl started out. Jan had similar stories involving puppet makers, film directors, gallery owners, etc.  Jan Wahl was not confrontational; he would simply write another book, 130 in total.

Making self-deprecating jokes about these experiences was how Jan Wahl would vent. It had to have hurt, for his friend and mentor to take his story and make it his own, while leading him on, eventually throwing him a bone. I wonder if Jan had a sense that the story prophesied his life. Ironically the book became Maurice Sendak’s main legacy.

When Maurice Sendak died in 2012, Jan auctioned off his letters from 1962-1964. Maurice Sendak illustrated Jan Wahl’s first book, Pleasant Field Mouse, published in 1964, after Where the Wild Things Are was published in 1963. A mouse and a monster-tamer, at least young Jan Wahl ended up with a book. Thus, he began his life as a children’s book author, successful although not rich, considering his prolific output. “I began at the top. It didn’t stay that way. But I did have a lovely, lovely beginning with a very fine artist,” was his quote in his Blade obit, taken from a 2006 Blade interview.

Jan Wahl and the Toledo Museum of Art

During the summer of 2013, not long after Jan Wahl’s special book came out, Carl Theodor Dreyer and Ordet: My Summer with the Danish Filmmaker, The Toledo Museum of Art put on a Dreyer film series. The first one was The Passion of Joan of Arc, and my husband and I went to it. We were surprised that Jan was not a part of it. So I wrote to the museum’s Public and Glass Programs Coordinator to tell her about Jan Wahl and his book, what a great film historian he was, and how he puts on film programs, and I gave her his phone number. She replied that she knew all about Jan Wahl, he did programs with the museum in the past, and that “he was actually part of the inspiration for the series. Unfortunately special guests are not always free of charge.”

It was hard to believe that the museum couldn’t scrape together a modest honorarium for Jan Wahl, a great local author and film historian, one who actually worked with Carl Dreyer on Ordet, in order to bring him into the event that his own newly-published book had inspired. Jan Wahl would have been happy to do it for merely a ride to the museum. How bad it was for them to take his work as the inspiration for the Dreyer film series, but not include him in the program. It was nice to see that the Dreyer films in the series thereafter, including the next film shown, Ordet, were introduced by Jan Wahl.

Wahl + Museum in 2019

Thereafter, the museum did more things with Jan. The final collaboration was for the launch of his new children’s book, Hedy and Her Amazing Invention, scheduled for March 2, 2019. Unfortunately, Jan Wahl died on January 29, five weeks before the event. In his obituary on February 1, the Blade quoted the museum manager of Programs and Audience Engagement saying that the program would continue, but would become a celebration of his writing, and especially his new book. “We want to celebrate what he has given to the world.”

Two weeks later, the museum had not changed their website to pay respect to the author of the book who was the principal element of the upcoming book-signing and book-reading event, who was unfortunately dead! I felt compelled to write another letter, this time to the director, Dr. Brian Kennedy in an email which I cc’d to the CEO of the Museum Board and the Director of Education and Engagement. I received an immediate reply, not from any of them, but from the Director of Communications, thanking me for bringing it to her attention that the information was out of date. The website was promptly updated to add a mention that the event would celebrate the author’s life and his new book, along with an art demonstration, and a parade.

No doubt this last episode with the museum gave Jan Wahl great material for a new story to tell up in heaven.

Treatment of local artists
and the shift to the culture of un-belonging
Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, the 96-year old tradition

We are the hometown artists, and we’d like some respect. The museum’s new manager of communications touts the line: “We want the community to see themselves on the walls of the museum.” Artists of Toledo would like to see ourselves on the walls of the museum, too. We’d like to feel that sense of belonging again, that was taken away from us eight years ago under a cloud of corruption.

In 2014, it meant nothing to the Toledo Museum of Art to kill the 96-year old tradition of the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition by use of “curating” it themselves instead of impartial judging of the entries. They stuffed the show with insiders such as museum workers, Federation presidents and past presidents, and friends, with only two women from Toledo, while excluding people of color.

I curated a show in protest with like-minded local artists called Artists of Toledo at the Paula Brown Gallery.

The Toledo Area Artists Exhibition had been jointly presented by the Federation of Toledo Art Societies and the Toledo Museum of Art until 2011, when the museum told the Federation that they would take it over so they could do even more for Toledo artists. But in 2014, they took Toledo artists out of the show and put in their own employees, friends and previous Federation presidents, with only two local women artists, in a show of 27 artists (which had usually been 80 or more local artists, usually over half being women.) Even though local artists entered the competition as they had for 96 years, this show did not have impartial judges, as had all the shows after 1921 (when the museum caused an uproar by jurying it themselves and giving the prize to a 14-year old), instead it was “curated” by the museum’s own staff. The museum quietly stopped the Toledo Area Artists annual show, and it was okay with the Federation of Toledo Art Societies since they got a big payoff. But they should have fixed it. See, my blog post, Toledo Museum of Art: Repair the Damage.

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In 2014 they increased the show’s area of eligibility to cover a 150 mile radius that included Detroit, Columbus, Cleveland and Ann Arbor.

So it’s weird that today they are using “community belonging” after  kicking out the local artists eight years ago. When they so want to tell our untold stories of the community, but isn’t the art that comes from the community the most authentic community story for an art museum to tell? The museum turned its back on local artists – where is the promised local art gallery for local artist shows? Promised 15 months ago! So much indecision and procrastination – they don’t know what to do, because they don’t really want to do it — they don’t like their local artists.

Narrowing the transmission

This year, the museum endeavors to engage the community by reducing the area it serves to a 2-mile radius. When they say community, they do not mean the entire Toledo area, and they certainly don’t mean the artists. They are reaching out to nearby neighborhoods who have not utilized the museum in the past. Must be the winning grant theme of the era. They are setting up “art-making stations” in federally-funded low-income housing, and they will feature these new local artists that they inspire and create, in a community gallery that they promised 15 months ago to Toledo’s local artists. They are emphasizing belonging (a membership drive, that is) by raising the parking fee to discourage visits to the museum by anyone who is not a member. Transportation for low-income housing within the 2-mile radius is provided by the museum for free.

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Map of the Toledo area that the Toledo Museum of Art once served, with the new two-mile radius marked, delineating their community outreach.

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TMA-2-mile-radius
This two-mile radius that the museum has been delineated as the area of concentration to foster their sense of community belonging is 1/6 of the City of Toledo’s total area, and about 1/50 of the Toledo area that it serves. The museum feels bad because the majestic Toledo Museum of Art building was not destroyed when the state put in the I-75 interstate highway 60 years ago.  The area outside this two mile radius, which most of Toledo, will not be included in the museum’s concentration to foster our sense of community belonging. We are considered outsiders and will be ignored. 

The relentless focus

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Excerpt from The Toledo Museum of Art press release, July 2022

the world we live in? 

In 2014, Erin the President of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies accepted the corruption of the rigged Toledo Area Artists Exhibition by saying, “I tell my students, it’s the world we live in.”

In 2022, John Stanley told the Blade in regard to the deaccessioning of the three French Impressionist paintings, “It’s the world we live in.”

Diversity – the perfect cover for selling off the good art… nobody gets to know who it is sold to! And what will be next?

Connecting with the government for political power and personal upward mobility?

Is this what it has come to?

Outsiders are telling our story, remotely, when they don’t know us.

The museum only does what looks good on the current grant application.

A museum run by remote control is bad for Toledo.

Jan Wahl’s great children’s story was appropriated, and he never forgot it. The current stewards of the great Toledo Museum of Art are deliberately erasing the real story of this community as they sell off our great art! Cézanne, Matisse and Renoir, and what is next? Rembrandt? We should not accept what is happening to the museum as if we can’t do anything about it, because we can!

Artists of Toledo

What a bunch of B.S. – telling our story! We want our museum back!

To tell the authentic story, see how the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition did it for 96 years. What’s more authentic to the community, than art that is made by community artists? There is no better way to help local artists, thus helping the community, than to bring back the annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art.

Categories
Artists of Toledo

Edward and Florence’s Wills

What reputable museum sells valuable paintings from their great French Impressionist collection to “broaden the narrative of art history?”

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. EDITORIAL – TOLEDO MUSEUM OF ART SHOULD KEEP ITS TOP TIER   The Blade, Editorial Board, April 25, 2022 

Diversity is achieved through addition, not through subtraction. 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. 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. – Christopher Knight, Pulitzer prize winning art critic and author of COMMENTARY: AN OHIO MUSEUM IS HOLDING THE BIGGEST SALE OF ARTWORK YET. IT’S UNCONSCIONABLE (Los Angeles Times, May 6, 2022), as quoted in the The Blade, Jason Webber, May 16, 2022CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS TOLEDO MUSEUM OF ART SALE OF THREE PAINTINGS

The Edward Drummond and Florence Scott Libbey President, Director and CEO of the Toledo Museum of Art, Adam Levine, portrayed the Matisse, Cézanne, and Renoir paintings as being mediocre, disingenuously invoking Edward Drummond Libbey’s approval in a Libbey quote, as if Libbey would approve of the deaccessions of these valuable, famous and popular paintings. Mr. Levine wrote this in his April 8 deaccession justification letter to members: 

As Edward Drummond Libbey put it in 1912: “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.”

Mr. Levine said that deaccessions, such as that of these three masterpiece paintings, are written “by design” in the wills of Edward Drummond and Florence Scott Libbey.

Twisting the intent of Edward and Florence’s wills, who by the way have paid for about 85% (just my BFA college-educated guess from looking at the museum’s online catalog) of all the art in the Toledo Museum of Art, as well as having paid for the building itself, their wills which stated that the proceeds of anything sold from the collection has to be spent on artwork only, is a basic ethical principle regarding the deaccessioning of artwork in any museum collection. But Adam Levine, 11th Director of the Toledo Museum of Art, made it seem as if Libbey intended for the art in the collection to be traded as if it was a stock portfolio! Indeed, Adam Levine told Christopher Knight in regard to selling the Cézanne, it was time to pull the trigger.

Adam Levine pulled the trigger on our famous Impressionist paintings and shot them out the door.
The rules in the wills

From the Edward Drummond Libbey Will:

All paintings, other pictures and works of art by me bequeathed said The Toledo Museum of Art, its successor and successors, by this my Will, or by any codicil thereto, and all paintings, pictures and other works of art by it or them acquired by expenditures from said income, shall at all times be properly and appropriately housed in one or more rooms of The Toledo Museum of Art in said City of Toledo, each of which rooms shall at all times be designated and plainly marked “The Edward Drummond Libbey Gallery”; each and every of said painting, other pictures and works of art shall at all times be plainly marked “Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey”, and shall be kept adequately insured against loss from fire, theft and other causes. Said The Toledo Museum of Art, its successor and successors, may temporarily loan for the purposes of public exhibition elsewhere any such painting or other picture or work of art, upon taking proper security for its safe return; and it and they may, from time to time and at its and their discretion, sell or exchange any painting or other picture or work of art purchased by expenditures from said income, and from the proceeds thereof may acquire some other or others.

From the Florence Scott Libbey Will:

One-half (1/2) thereof in the purchase of paintings, statuary, furniture and other works of art, each of which, when so acquired, shall have designated thereon, or near thereto, the following words: “Florence Scott Libbey Bequest in Memory of her Father, Maurice A. Scott”, and shall be permanently installed in one or more rooms of the building or buildings of said Museum of Art, each of which shall be designated and known as the “Maurice A. Scott Memorial Gallery” and the other one-half (1/2), thereof to be used and expended by said The Toledo Museum of Art, its successor and successors, for any of its corporate purposes. Any articles, so purchased, if deemed advisable or desirable, may be sold or exchanged, and the proceeds of every such sale used as income in the purchase of some other work of art.

Building the museum’s fine collection took many years, and much effort went into it. French Impressionism is popular and valuable work; it is very accessible; it is considered to be the starting point of modern art. The Matisse (purchased in 1935) and Cezanne (purchased in 1942) were purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey.

Adam Levine wrote in his April 8 letter to museum supporters:

The Toledo Museum of Art has never sought to have multiple examples by the same artist—fewer than 11% of the artists in our collection are represented by two or more paintings;  

We will use these proceeds to create a new acquisition endowment.

YIKES!

using the sales of the Cézanne, Matisse, and Renoir to create a new acquisition endowment!! But doesn’t the Libbey will specify that proceeds from any sale be used for art, right now, not to be used to create a new entity of a new endowment — the money is not even going back to the Libbey Endowment to be used on art soon enough? What about the Libbey name and attribution to the gift of the artwork that will be purchased? What about Mrs. McKelvy? What the heck! What’s the set-up cost going to be for this “new endowment” and how many hands are in that pot?

Gee Wiz!

If only Adam Levine had been fired on the spot after he came out with his crude George Floyd memo that stated how the staff should stay neutral. Instead, the museum trustees went along with his rationalization that there was something fundamentally wrong with our museum, as if it reflects bias and discrimination against the black community. Nothing could be further from the truth, except for the hiring of Adam Levine and keeping him on after he published his thoughtless memo.

A field day

The Toledo Black Artist Coalition had a field day.

November 18, 2020, five months before she was hired by the museum to be the first “Director of Belonging and Community Engagement,” Rhonda Sewell’s heart emoji on a Toledo Black Artist Coalition Facebook post, implying that the Toledo Museum of Art is elitist and racist. It is important to note that the painting by Philip Guston in this post does not have anything to do with the Toledo Museum of Art. 
“On Monday, January 17th the Toledo Museum of Art is open as a gathering place to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Come enjoy a full day of programs and exhibits that celebrate African-American artists and culture. Feel the united spirit of our diverse Toledo community.”

This year, the museum opened its doors on a Monday for the first time in 110 years to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It just happened to be the 110th anniversary of the day the museum opened the doors for the very first time, ever. But there was no mention of that at the museum. Mum was the word. I was there, and I asked several employees, including a trustee who was going around introducing herself, and none of them knew. The museum historian knew though — they called and asked her! Couldn’t the museum figure out how Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the 110th anniversary of the opening of the new museum could be celebrated together? How pathetic that they had to sell out the museum’s history in order to honor black history.

“Belonging and Community Engagement” Director Rhonda Sewell’s January 19, 2022 tweet – a selfie with one of her favorite pieces of art – the Renoir sculpture of a nude woman in bronze that was deemed to be so similar and so much better than the Renoir painting of the nude white woman, that the painting had to go.
The two so-called “similar” late-period Renoirs. A painting that is too similar to a sculpture! Guess which on the Toledo Museum of Art chose to keep. What is the museum telling us? Its value on the open market was merely 5% of the total of the three, and this painting was a valuable part of Mrs. McKelvy’s female-eye-curated collection bequest. Was it thrown in as a symbolic sacrifice, or as a distraction? Will details be revealed that make it even more sinister than we can imagine? Read on….
April 26, 2022: What will next year bring? A museum without its venerable French Impressionist collection. A divisive museum. If that is Rhonda Sewell’s idea of progress, then congratulations.
The “brand” of “belonging”

Is it good stewardship for the Director of The Toledo Museum of Art, Adam Levine, to add two new departments — “Branding” and “Belonging” – erasing and re-writing the museum for the black community (some would call it pandering), while at the same time dismantling the museum’s wonderful French Impressionism collection for $50+ million? Adam Levine has ridded us of a good third or more of our valuable, popular, historically significant French Impressionist paintings, calling it in the name of “diversity.” One thing is for sure, he is getting a lot of negative publicity.

And then there’s this.

To sell our Renoir, Matisse and Cézanne out from under our valuable public collection, into secret, private hands, only for us to find out that the two most expensive paintings were sold to the same buyer, sales that are shrouded by the convenient secrecy of a Sotheby’s auction, then to discover a casino connection to our former “interim” director, John Stanley… who strangely became the museum spokesman for The Blade’s article on May 16, 2022CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS TOLEDO MUSEUM OF ART SALE OF THREE PAINTINGS saying that, basically, what do those people who object to the deaccessions know about art anyway, and “this is the world we live in….” It’s outrageous!

Hired to oversee the business aspects of the 2018 plans for the museum building renovation, then used as the interim director when Brian Kennedy suddenly left the museum one year before the end of his contract, John Stanley isn’t on the board of museum trustees, but for some reason, he is on the so-called “Art Committee” that recommended the deaccession (even though he has no degree in art – only in business and finance, and was hired by the museum to work on the new construction – so what does he know about art?) But when the going got tough with the public outcry against the auction, John Stanley was the spokesman the art museum put out front to deal with it.

And speaking for the museum on Facebook was the charming troll-like, aptly-named “Brandi Black.” She appeared on top of every Blade article about the deaccession, and also on my Toledo Now page, posting sarcastic ad hominem and name-calling attacks on everyone who dared to question the sales of the paintings. She used the face of Supreme Court Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson. Not everyone would recognize the honorable judge’s friendly face. Judges are meant to be behind the scenes, after all. They are not celebrities. “Brandi Black” changed her Facebook moniker picture to Ketanji Brown Jackson (from a white cartoon face) on the day before Adam Levine announced the deaccession. Hmmm…. Did the museum actually hire her, or was she just volunteering? Only the Brand Director knows for sure. Either way, she certainly made the museum look bad!

How strange that Brandi Black’s May 18 comment on The Blade Facebook post for their article, CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS TOLEDO MUSEUM OF ART SALE OF THREE PAINTINGS, mentions 12 Monets, John Stanley and the Museum of Fine Arts, and that Brandi Black personally watched the Sotheby’s auction — all at once!
What are the odds?

Check out this article about the rental of 21 Monet paintings to a Las Vegas casino by the Institute of Fine Arts, Boston, during the time that John Stanley was the COO of that museum.

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

How interesting to find out that John Stanley was the COO at the Institute of Fine Arts, Boston when they rented out 21 French Impressionist Monet paintings from the museum’s stellar collection to a Las Vegas casino, the Bellagio, for a generous rental fee.

The owner of the Bellagio casino, Steve Wynn, is an avid collector of French Impressionist art; such articles are easy to find on Google.

Is it possible that the sale of our valuable French Impressionist paintings could have been prearranged?


The Libbeys lost a child – a baby boy – in 1895. After that, they poured their hearts into making a great, democratic art museum for all of the people of the city of Toledo – it’s our inheritance. It’s our museum.
It’s our museum!

The trustees are expected to be good stewards of our museum. The least they can do is to take care of our art and heritage and not sell it off. Our museum is not to be used as a catalog of artwork for sale. After this deaccession tragedy, shouldn’t we be seriously safeguarding our multiple Rembrandt and van Gogh oil paintings and other valuable paintings from being casualties of a future corrupt deaccessioning, now that we know that such a travesty is not only possible, but suspiciously probable, considering the circumstances surrounding the loss of our three valuable French Impressionist paintings this month?


P.S.

Why does the museum put flowers on the grave of the Libbeys, three times a year — on Easter Day, Memorial Day, and on November 13?

Because they have to – it’s in Florence Scott Libbey’s will. But I wonder, since Adam Levine and the museum trustees are making such swift and radical changes out from under the original intentions of the founders of our great, progressive museum  — calling our museum out for being somehow socially unjust, when our museum has been the most democratic and forward-thinking museum of them all, selling artwork gifted by the Libbeys to make a new acquisition endowment, just how long will the trustees be keeping those flowers going on that grave?

P.P.S.

And what have they done to the Ward M. Canaday Gallery? There are no exhibitions in it anymore — they’ve had a movie playing in it for the past eight months. Are they going to sell the name of the gallery (their 2018 renovation construction plan illustrations replace the space with a generic name, capitalized, “Center Gallery”) to a philanthropist for a period of time until death puts the patron cold in the grave, at which time the museum will rinse and repeat? Will the Frederic and Mary Wolfe Gallery be at risk, as well? Is this part of Mr. Levine’s big money-making, blood-sucking, self aggrandizing plan to make our museum the envy of every museum in America?

The Toledo Museum of Art used to be the envy of every museum in America before the trustees diminished its great children’s art classes that served the entire Toledo area school system. Over 2,000 children of all ethnicities, chosen by the schools’ principals with recommendations from teachers, choosing children for the program on the merit of the child’s apparent proclivity for artistic creativity, attended art classes every Saturday during the school year, for nearly the entire 20th century. The Libbeys’ wills actually mention more in regard to the importance of education than they speak of art.

Not to mention that the museum killed the 96-year old tradition of the annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition and got rid of the exhibition’s purchase award collection at the Toledo Museum of Art, banishing it to a closet in a Toledo high school. Included in the collection are works by such diverse local artists as Marvin Vines and Robert Garcia. Maybe the Director of Belonging and Community Engagement ought to look into this closet collection and bring the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition back. The Canaday Gallery seems to be readily available.

All the museum has to do to make itself enviable again is look back on its own history of how it engaged the community – check down in that memory hole and pull it back up.

The bodies are still warm.


A timeline journal of articles and events surrounding the deaccession:

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

Categories
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 Cezanne painting is amazing, and the two Matisse oil paintings are equally as beautiful, in my opinion. 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. 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 to us 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?


Categories
Artists of Toledo

But will they bring back our show?

A critique on the museum’s 5-year plan for growth
as reported by The Blade
The last paragraph in the above article.

In the spirit of community involvement, I’m compelled to offer some feedback on the recent article in The Blade about the museum’s future. But first a discussion about the last paragraph in the article, “The Toledo Museum of Art was founded in 1901 by Mr. Libbey and his wife, Florence Scott Libbey.”  That’s incorrect – The Toledo Museum of Art was founded by a group of artists.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean to say that Libbey was not important in the establishment of the museum – he was by far the chief benefactor in establishing the Toledo Museum of Art. But to say that he and his wife founded it is like throwing the museum’s populist history down the memory hole.

There are many near-contemporaneous accounts of how the Toledo Museum of Art was founded by a group of artists.

In the book, Memoirs of Lucas County and the City of Toledo from the earliest times down to the present Vol. II, published in 1910, which includes biographical sketches of prominent Toledo men, there is no mention of Libbey founding the museum, but there is mention of Edmund Henry Osthaus being “one of the founders and incorporators” of the museum.

This is how Osthaus is described in the Toledo Museum of Art’s own collection:

The Blade, October 29, 1926. Obituary of George W. Stevens, the museum’s long-time second director, founding member of the Tile Club, the group of artists responsible for “procuring a museum of Toledo.”

The Blade, September 30, 1922: “Museum Idea Takes Form” In 1893, the painter, Thomas Parkhurst formed the Tile Club, a group consisting of artists and architects in 1893. In 1900 the club had its first exhibition at Parkhurst’s store on Superior St. Out of that event grew a movement.  After the exhibition, the group of artists and architects was so enthused and fired up with the idea of establishing a home for art in Toledo that they got together with George Stevens as the leader, and talked art museum day and night. Robinson Locke, son of David R. Locke of Petroleum V. Nasby letters fame, helped through The Blade. Finally, George Stevens, “in an inspired moment” elicited the co-operation of Edward Drummond Libbey, who gave them the use of an old building on Madison Ave. and 12th Street to use for the museum, but they needed money…

The Blade, March 27, 1923
The Blade, March 27, 1923

Edward Drummond Libbey was the biggest benefactor, and he encouraged community involvement because everyone wanted a museum that belonged to the people. Libbey matched donations, and children collected pennies to contribute to the building fund.

The Toledo Museum of Art was always OUR museum….

Nearly all cities of any size in the country have their museums and galleries, which are fast becoming a necessity….We owe it to ourselves, to the school children of Toledo, and to the future generations to see that our good work shall continue, that we lay a foundation so solid and so complete that the future citizens of Toledo will look back upon this, our pioneer work, with praise and appreciation. — Edward Drummond Libbey. First annual report of The Toledo Museum of Art.

By the Seventies, the museum was in high gear: it was a leading teaching museum, providing annually about eight Educational Fellowships, training museum professionals from all over the country, who also helped with the free children’s Saturday classes that drew around 2,000 children per week. The Toledo Museum of Art ranked in the top 10 American art museums for popularity and assets. It was the center of the community art scene, with not only Saturday classes for grade school and high school students, but for its small but superior college art program in the basement of the museum, the Toledo Museum of Art School of Design, which extended to adult classes. That really brought in the community.

The museum also had monthly shows featuring local artists from 1933 to 1970, 540 in total, for both men and women artists. Beginning in 1918 it hosted the annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, celebrating the local art community. The museum was alive with community involvement.

The Blade, February 15, 1993

In the 1990’s, the museum’s School of Design and much of the adult education ended when the Frank Gehry building was built, which was connected to the east side of the museum. The University of Toledo’s School of Visual Arts occupies the space, taking over for the museum’s School of Design. The extensive children’s Saturday class program slipped away. The Saturday class program that had served the community for many decades became a sorry shadow of what it used to be.

What have they done to OUR museum?

Director of the museum from 2010 to 2019, Dr. Brian Kennedy at the Toledo Museum of Art Halloween party, October 28, 2010

In 2014, under the new director Brian Kennedy’s watch, the venerable, 95-year old tradition of the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition came to a shameful demise when the Toledo Museum of Art opened the show to entries from Detroit, Cleveland and Columbus, populations nine times the size of the Toledo region, while simultaneously limiting the show to only 27 artists. To add insult to injury, they stuffed it with Toledo Museum of Art insiders, mostly men. Additionally, the show was totally devoid of diversity, the absence of which is not the norm and has never been the norm for our TAA show.  See a full account of the 2014 show on this website, in the tag cloud in the footer of this page.

In 2011, Brian Kennedy presented his five-year strategic plan. I remember him saying that if art classes were available at one place in town, they were not necessary in two places because that’s redundant, we should save resources. Kennedy’s “basic principles” projected on the screen contradicted what he was saying there, as would his subsequent actions to what was projected on the screen.

An overhead slide projected at Brian Kennedy’s presentation of his “5-year Strategic Plan.” at the 93rd TAA jury dinner, August 2011.

In 2015, a few months after the 2014 TAA show debacle, I was at the museum attending the senior curator Larry Nichol’s gallery talk about a particular painting we were sitting on front of in the gallery, when at the end, he asked the small group of people before him, mostly age 45 and up, how to bring younger people in. I raised my hand and said, bring your children’s classes back. Bring the TAA show back. Bring the monthly local shows back.  He said, “noted.”

What did they expect would happen to attendance at the museum, when they take everything away that enlivened the art community, from classes for children and adults to lending a wall for a local art show?

Yoga on the steps of the museum if you are between 24 and 45. July 2014

The exclusive, discriminatory “Circle 2445” membership effort designed to bring in the museum’s desired younger members was short-lived. The overt ageist discrimination insulted many people.

click on letter to see more…

In other ways too, the Museum became unresponsive to the Toledo community. For example, here’s a story having to do with Toledo’s first artist, William H. Machen, who died in 1911. Over the years, his descendants have approached the museum for advice, once in 1941 and again in 2015 — see the contrast in responses between the third museum director, Blake-More Godwin and the ninth director, Brian Kennedy…

In 2019, Brian Kennedy resigned after only eight years to become the director of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. (Which might be a fine historical museum that is owned by Harvard University, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the great Toledo Museum of Art.)


Now then, back to the subject of this post, a critique of the new 5-year plan as outlined in the above screen-shotted March 9, 2021 Blade article…

the new 5-year strategic plan
  1. to continue to build on its diverse collection...   Well that’s good, because Edward Drummond Libbey’s bequest stipulates that half of the money taken from the fund in any given year must go to buying new art.
  2. working more closely with local artists through a more active outreach and engagement strategy…   Does this mean they will bring our Toledo Area Artists Exhibition back? Have they forgotten the relationship they used to have with local artists? I hope they will read my blog post, it’s outlined above!
  3. becoming an employer of choice through support and retention policies…   Hasn’t the Toledo Museum of Art ALWAYS been an employer of choice? Or are they talking about the museum guards, whom for many years were hired from our community of senior citizens, but about 10 years ago the museum started replacing senior citizens with young people, who just aren’t sticking with the job like the seniors did, because being a long-time museum guard is a dead-end job… Are they using young people for their ageist young image?
  4. creating a platform for operational excellence through the upgrade of visitor amenities, making museum access a priority, growing the museum’s financial base and becoming more efficient…   
Are we doing great?

Culture of Belonging
and Authentic Integration
of great art and everyday community

As if words, regardless of deeds, will make it so.

That’s exactly what the Toledo Museum of Art used to do. The Toledo Museum of Art didn’t have to try to be authentic — the Museum oozed with authenticity and community involvement. That’s because it was our museum – it belonged to the people of Toledo – it was Edward Drummond Libbey and the artist founders’ intention – funded in part with the pennies of the children who have since become our forefathers.

Will the Toledo Museum of Art bring back our venerable, prestigious Toledo Area Artists Exhibition? Will they bring our classes back? Will the Museum ever be the center of the working artist community again? Or will it continue to be a place for yoga on the front steps for the 24-45 crowd, and “baby and me” looking-at-art classes in the galleries for bored (but sufficiently young) parents?

The artists of Toledo can’t wait to find out.

The last authentic Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, 2013, and the 94th TAA Awards Ceremony at the Peristyle. Brian Kennedy and Amy Gilman handing out awards. The prestigious juried exhibition has launched many a young artist’s career.
Categories
Artists of Toledo

Letter to the Editor of The Blade

In the October 15, 2014 Toledo Blade is my Letter to the Editor:

The upcoming Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, Nov. 21 through Jan. 4 at the Toledo Museum of Art, will have only 11 artists from the Toledo area.  The previous exhibition had 64 local artists.

Seventeen artists outside of our 17-county regional area got into the TAA show from as far as Cleveland, Columbus, Grand Rapids, Mich., and Muncie, Ind.

I am a member of the local art community and operate a Web site that details Toledo’s art history (artistsoftoledo.com). I applied for the exhibition but wasn’t accepted.

Of the 11 Toledo area artists who were chosen, most have inside connections to the art museum, which gained control of the exhibition from the Toledo Federation of Art Societies in 2011. I question whether the jurying was ethical.

It is unacceptable that only 11 Toledo area artists were picked out of 462 total entrants. The museum should not be entitled to use the TAA name because it is a misrepresentation.

TAA is the oldest regional art competition affiliated with a museum in the country. Obviously, the museum has no respect for Toledo’s traditions or its artists. Toledoans donate to the museum, believing it is community oriented. Donors may want to rethink donating to a museum that treats the present-day community this way.

Penny Gentieu

Categories
Artists of Toledo

Herral Long Photographed the Pulse of Toledo for Sixty Years

Herral Long, beloved long-time Blade photographer passed away on Saturday, June 14.

He photographed every United States president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, as well as day-to-day newsworthy events in Toledo for six decades. He was forever curious and experimental as a photographer and often said that taking a great picture was like catching a butterfly.

He was an award winning photographer and named Ohio News Photographers Association’s first Photographer of the Year in 1967.

He was a free spirit and founding member of Joyce Perrin’s Any Wednesday, a gathering place for poets, artists and musicians, a Toledo art scene tradition which has been going on since 1964.

He played a dulcimer and wrote songs for his wife, Marcy, who had Alzheimer’s disease, believing that one’s sense of hearing is the last to go.

He began photographing for the Blade in 1949 and retired in 2009. Herral Long arranged the timing of his retirement so that The Blade would have to keep on a recently-hired photographer, Amy Voigt, whose position was about to be eliminated. Herral felt that she was very talented and by his stepping down, it would give her an opportunity.

In a 1969 Toledo Museum of Art Catalog for a show he was in, it is reported that he was interested in mountain climbing, sailing, photography, palm reading.

He was a wonderful, charming person and friend to all.

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