Categories
Artists of Toledo

Before they sold off masterpieces prominently on display

Our museum should not be a catalog for billionaires to add to their art collection at our expense.

The day I shot these photos, on October 13, 1979, I was teaching a children’s Saturday photo class. It took place under the stage of the Peristyle. We went up to the galleries, as Saturday classes often would.

This photo is of the center entrance of the museum. The first gallery a visitor would come to was that gallery in the upper left, and on view here, in the distance, is the famed Cezanne, The Glade, that Adam Levine sold at auction on May 17, 2022, touting it was necessary in order for diversity.

This is a student in my class. She’s taking her first photo — in it appears The Glade by Cezanne, which is right next to Renoir’s Bather, which was also sold off by Adam Levine.

This photo shows a diverse group of people in that very gallery — so why did Adam Levine think that the museum did not attract diversity? Is it because he was using diversity as a smokescreen for his outrageous sale of three French Impressionist paintings, two of which were bought with funds from the Edward Drummond Libbey Endowment and were Libbey’s gift to to the people of Toledo, but Adam Levine took those proceeds and funded a separate private fund devoid of public scrutiny and against the wishes of the Libbeys — in the amount equal to that of the Libbey Fund?

Right next to the Cezanne and the Renoir paintings that Adam Levine sold is Renoir’s sculpture of a bather, shown here on the left. Adam Levine considered the painting of the bather by Renoir redundant and not necessary for the museum to keep, since they had the sculpture of the bather by Renoir. He said that the museum never intended to have more than one example of any one artist so therefore they sold the Renoir painting of the bather. Note the diverse group of children drawing on the floor in this room.

After leaving the first gallery, where the Cezanne and Renoir paintings were shown prominently, a visitor would enter the next gallery, where one of the first paintings in the gallery hanging on the right would be Henri Matisse’s Fleurs ou Fleurs devant un portrait that Adam Levine also sold. Here, a visitor examines a sculpture by Aristide Maillol (1861-1944), Le Monument à Debussy, (in conversation with the Renoir sculpture in the first gallery) with the Matisse painting hanging in the background.

Important to the museum’s collection.

So that’s three very famous, highly valuable paintings that were prominently on display at the Toledo Museum of Art, showing that these were the first paintings out of hundred of works of art that a museum visitor would encounter. But in 2022, these highly valuable paintings were called redundant and mediocre by Adam Levine, and sold for “diversity,” supposedly.

Here are two young black men enjoying the museum. This was in 1979. The museum has always had a diverse audience. But now Director Adam Levine keeps careful head count, mapping and going out of his way to exploit diversity or is that just a cover for the unconscionable sales he made of the museum’s great artwork?

Here’s a shot of the photography classroom under the stage of the Peristyle. In the background, a student is drying his print on the ferrotyping drum.

Incidentally, the children’s Saturday photography classes have also disappeared.

Photography is such an interesting medium. How could I have known then, when I was taking these photographs, that they would have such meaning today?

43 years later, three important and significant paintings that were hanging in the museum’s main galleries would be shipped to Sotheby’s where the Cezanne and the Matisse would be sold to the same buyer, for $57 million, and all three, grossing $61 million, would duplicate the value of the Edward Drummond Libbey Endowment Fund, putting the money into a private fund, not subject to public scrutiny, and skirting past Libbey’s rules and wishes for the museum that the Libbeys began. Reducing the art collection and taking away Libbey’s legacy. Shame on Adam Levine and shame on each one of the museum board members and Libbey Endowment trustees for their total breach of fiduciary duty and loyalty to the Libbey Trust and to the Toledo Museum of Art.

We will never see the paintings on the museum walls again. But I have photos. And this story to tell.

(If you zoom in on the flash, you will see me there.)


I am hoping that the findings of the Charitable Law Section of the Ohio Attorney General, which has been investigating the museum and the Libbey Trust for about five months now, will be bringing justice to Libbey’s trust, to our museum, and to the people of Toledo. The Ohio Attorney General’s office has the power to find out who bought the paintings and under what circumstances. They can investigate all the inner workings of the board of directors and the trustees of the trust that let this happen. They can do a complete audit. Can Adam Levine and the trustees of the museum and the Libbey trust actually be allowed to transform Libbey’s endowment into private funds devoid of the restrictions of the Libbey Endowment?

Categories
Artists of Toledo

TMA’s disgraceful national review

Wow! Read this: Toledo Museum: A Treasure Trove of the Best – But chasing the diversity, equity, and belonging unicorn, it might derail itself 
And this:  Toledo Is Great on Glass but Disses American History – Its glass collection is superbly presented, but American art is trashed as ‘white supremacist’

The Toledo Museum of Art is getting national attention — but not in a good way. Unfortunately the unflattering critique by art critic, Brian T. Allen in the National Review is right-on. The museum is using its stellar collection to promote a trite, tired and divisive political point of view, reducing great art to the level of mere illustration, targeting the lowest common denominator. Dumb, dumb, dumb!

It’s missing a few points though…. like perhaps the museum has gone all out with their inclusion theme as a smokescreen to cover the bigger picture. They want us to look over here at their diversity theme and not follow the money. Like the questionable sudden selling of the museum’s three great Impressionist paintings for over 61 million dollars and starting a whole new unrestricted fund with it. Taking from Edward Drummond Libbey’s bequest and defying his rules. And who exactly bought TWO of these paintings? Hopefully the Ohio Attorney General, in their current investigation of the Libbey Endowment Trust funds, will uncover it all.

The mayor is a dope

Toledo’s mayor, in a dollop of snark and a show of ignorance, said the museum catered to “Florence Libbey types,” which means a high-society dame, the kind who wear a tiara to weed the orchid patch. It’s safe to say he’s a dope. The museum’s not a colony of the country club. It has cultivated a broad-based appeal and affection. And a mayor shouldn’t trash the thing that adds the most class and cachet to his city. Toledo, after all, isn’t the Paris of Ohio. – Brian T. Allen, Toledo Museum: A Treasure Trove of the Best, National Review

Yes, the mayor of Toledo, Wade Kapszukiewicz, is a dope. And it is safe to presume that this line of thinking was fed to him by the museum’s newly appointed “Brand” department and manager — a man who lives in Colorado! Once you trash the beginnings of the museum, and the Libbeys, and the museum’s history — a museum built by progressive founders who gave the gift of the museum to all of the people of Toledo — the exact opposite of the image that the mayor of Toledo is promoting — it’s easy enough to trash the art inside of it and whisk it away.

As they destroy the museum’s legacy, they can easily sell off the museum’s masterpieces. If they can get away with secretly selling valuable paintings that were purchased with funds from the Edward Drummond Libbey Endowment, a publicly scrutinized trust fund, and move those assets into a secret private fund, or who knows what they do because the public no longer has access, they set a precedent and can keep doing it until the museum has no resemblance to the intentions of the founders.

If they were not going to buy art right away with the proceeds (as per the wishes of the Libbey trust) then why didn’t they simply put it back in the Edward Drummond Libbey Endowment Fund? I’ve read Libbey’s will in regard to the trust and there is absolutely nothing in it that would stop them from putting the money back into the endowment fund.

The wills of the Libbeys make it very easy for the Trustees to do what they think is best — but of course that freedom is predicated on the Trustees’ fiduciary duty. The Trustees are legally required to do their best to act in Libbeys’ stead, but it appears that they are breaching that trust. And they are dwindling the endowment away (check it out for yourself at the Lucas County courthouse — it’s public information) while the museum builds up a private fund. Is there a conflict of interest? Some of the same Trustees of the Libbey Trust are on the Board of Directors of the museum.

While they, to quote the article, cater relentlessly to Toledans living within a two-mile radius of the museum” and drag people from their homes to raise that percentage for what is, after all, an ego trip” (but never answer the emails of community members or respond to open letters on blogs, being the hypocrites they really are) they are actually stealing from the people of Toledo.

This happens because the mayor of Toledo, city council, museum board members, donors, members, etc., play along with them (after all, they go to the same parties and have the same lawyers) and they are all such dopes.

Categories
Artists of Toledo

Who bought our Cezanne, The Glade?

It was the gift of Edward Drummond Libbey.

 A one-year anniversary look-back. 

Edward Drummond Libbey and Florence Scott Libbey gave their money to fund and start the Toledo Museum of Art, and to keep it going with stipulations made in their wills and trusts. The museum sold paintings that the Libbey Endowment paid for and started a new fund equal to the amount of the Libbey Endowment that takes the Libbeys out of the equation. In theory, the Toledo Museum of Art has always been Edward and Florence Libbey’s creation and gift to the city of Toledo. The current “stewards” of the museum are breaking their fiduciary duty to the museum and to the city of Toledo.

One year ago today, on May 17th, our valuable French Impressionist painting, The Glade by Paul Cezanne was sold at auction at Sotheby’s for $41.7 million, along with Matisse’s Fleurs ou Fleurs devant un portrait for $15.3 million, to the same mysterious buyer. Both of the paintings were bought with funds from the Edward Drummond Libbey Endowment. Renoir’s Nu s’essuyant (Bather), was also sold at auction, for $2.7 million, possibly thrown in as a red herring.

Although the museum has recently spread the rumor that this painting had been in storage in the museum’s basement for a long time, this photo, above, is proof that it was not in the basement. On the left is a section of a photo that I took on October 27, 2021, and on the right is a Toledo Museum of Art-credited photo of Bob and Sue Savage with the painting on the wall behind them. The photo of the Savages was used in a press release in regard to their recent donation and was published in at least one newspaper in June 2021, this found online on the BG Independent News.

The current so-called “stewards” of our museum took the Cezanne painting right off the wall of Gallery 33 and shipped it to Sotheby’s. But it was an important painting. Cezanne is considered the father of modern art. It was one of the first paintings a person would see when they visited the Toledo Museum of Art.

We were told this:

The director, Adam Levine and the board members and other so-called museum “stewards” as well as an outside consultant took a vote as to which of the two Cezanne paintings that the museum owned they thought was the best, The Glade or Avenue at Chantilly. They all decided that Avenue at Chantilly was the best. So then they told us that the museum had never intended to have multiple examples of an artist, so they were selling The Glade, along with an “extra” Matisse, as well as the Renoir painting of the nude bather that was apparently too similar to the Renoir sculpture of the nude bather in their collection. Adam Levine told us that Edward Drummond Libbey would want them to get rid of the Cezanne, Matisse and Renoir because they were mediocre, invoking Libbey in this quote:

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.”

Announced only 38 days before the auction, Toledoans protested the sale. The Blade and the Los Angeles Times published editorials against the sale. The Blade wrote that it doesn’t make sense to deaccession the museum’s best paintings, and that as the museum represents Toledo, they shouldn’t be selling them. The Los Angeles Times wrote in authoritative detail that the deaccession was unconscionable. But it didn’t stop our museum “stewards,” because the museum had arranged with Sotheby’s for it to be a done deal. Our “stewards” stipulated the auctioned paintings to be “Guaranteed Property” with “Irrevocable Bids.” If the paintings didn’t sell, they became the property of Sotheby’s.

How important was our Cezanne?

It was very important. Here it is on the cover of Museum News after it was acquired in 1942, and the text.

Museum News March 1943 – download PDF here

ADDED TO THE LIBBEY COLLECTION

LANDSCAPE by Cezanne brings to the Toledo Museum the union of nature and an intellect especially attuned to it. Here is a man who worked always from fact and expanded it enormously by his understanding. When morning lights the southern wall of Gallery Twenty-four, The Glade admits us to its spell. Sit down for twenty minutes and enjoy it without effort or prejudice, as if pausing here to await a friend on a morning’s walk. Surely a simple landscape, this place where we choose to rest. Sunlight laps the warm earth at our feet; the low scrub flares into second-growth trees, none of them remarkable for size or majesty. Yet the place has elemental grandeur; this small area is instinct with sun and wind, the joy and sparkle, the grace and severity of life itself. Through to the left opens a little vista, made more intriguing by the slender tree that cuts our view. Trunks at the right have grown aslant toward the sunlight. Cezanne was deeply conscious of his “sensations in the presence of nature” and he is able to convey them to us in the surface sparkle of his brilliant brushwork and the solid foundations of form and space and volume that compose this world about us. These sapling trunks fling pyramids of foliage on the summer air. Between them pulses heat and light. Tree after tree separates itself from the mass and takes on individuality. Far to the left, the sun strikes the ruddy earth once more. The distance grows with contemplation.

Beside the Cezanne hangs a landscape by Monet, and we learn to see more truly if we compare the two, the Monet representing the high tide of Impressionist painting, and the Cezanne still Impressionist but with instinctive turn toward those more solid qualities which were to rebuild international art in our time. Monet’s objective was light and atmosphere, colors laid side by side, not mixed on a palette, but fused by our eyesight to more sparkling vivacity. Monet in this canvas shows more of heat and sun and shimmer, but the distance down The Glade is more firmly defined than are Monet’s miles across the bay to Antibes. Cezanne’s trees toss more solid form into the air than Monet cared to give to the very walls and towers of his city. Monet’s summer day is the gayer of the two, more lyric, not so epic as the Cezanne of darker majesty. Turn to the left of the Glade and you will see the work of Pissarro, with whom Cezanne painted the summers of 1873 and 1874 at Auvers. From this older French master stems Cezanne’s only recognizable heritage in art. From him he learned to look with care at the world before him and to be more aware of nature than introspective in his vision. Pissaro’s methods of painting were effective, flexible and assured, and Cezanne went on to develop them further into his own idiom.

Cezanne said, “I wish to make of Impressionism something solid and durable like the art of museums.” He worked a lifetime from dawn to twilight to keep the light and atmosphere at their height yet give them a foundation of geometric forms, the solid structure of all things, set in resounding space. Volume and space were aims in some degree of most masters in the history of art, yet Cezanne unified these objectives and knit them into a single powerful restatement, from which derives much international art of our time. All artists today who emphasize three dimensions, all those who go deeper than decorative surfaces, all modern artists are somewhat different since Cezanne lived his years of unremitting work from 1873 to 1906. Some artists can only reflect the great; being devoid of creative gifts themselves, they add nothing of their own temperament. Other imaginations speak their own native dialect of the Cezanne language. None would have painted the same, had not this quiet, shy man lived before them. The Glade gains its form through Cezanne’s minute observation of color. His eye took in not only the local color inherent in an object, and the colors reflected upon it by surroundings, but the subtle changes of hue which shape for our eye the recession and turn of surfaces which enclose the volumes of reality. He pursues these manifold aims with innate simplicity and discretion. So interwoven is the resulting fabric of color, texture, volume, and space that no one aspect of the creation breaks through the grave composure of the whole. Minute and unremitting was his scrutiny of nature. Across the surface of his canvas flickers unceasing life compounded of transparent slender brushstrokes. Effects were built up, layer upon layer, hour after hour of slow contemplation, conviction, action. Often his brush was washed in turpentine between strokes to keep his color more exact and pure. Slow work and humble effort and absorbed devotion to nature filled his life to the exclusion of all but a few friends, his wife and affectionate son. From 1892 to 1896 he painted in the forest of Fontainebleau and along the river Marne. Some time he passed at Aix in Provence. As The Glade would seem to have been painted between these years, we are not sure of its exact locale. Perhaps near Aix or not far from Paris he found this clearing circled by rich green. Landscapes are frequent in his masterly production. A writer has compared his canvases with photographs of the scenes he chose to paint. He can see with striking clarity how much Cezanne’s vision simplified and reinforced the salient facts of nature. From her casual vegetation he developed a vast and solid structure of space, volumes, dramatic sequence of related objects.

Because of his methods of work, his exceedingly patient analysis of nature, this artist had need of equal patience in all his subjects. His great still life compositions are instinct with apples, bottles, clocks, fabrics whose complete lack of motion is but one step beyond the painter’s exceedingly slow method of painting them. His still lifes are among the most remarkable of all time. Resolute and personable, these inanimate objects take on a majestic finality which is the reward of his intellectual and sensitive perception and translation of a three-dimensional world into the two dimensions of the picture plane. His portraits are equally magnificent, forceful and direct. They are limited to the figures of friends, those relatives or devoted ones who could be asked for even a hundred and fifteen hours of unflinching quiet, as was Vollard. A village group sat absorbed by their cards day after day while Cezanne immortalized them as The Card Players. The nude attracted him throughout his life, but with slight success due to the hazards inherent in his dream of having large groups of unclothed models motionless for long periods outdoors in a provincial society. He was too sincere to paint them in the comfort of a studio and by imagination surround them with the light of heaven. Born to security beneath the rule of his most autocratic father, he was always assured of funds for a modest existence. Later inheritance brought him comparative wealth, but he continued a simple life, devoid of ornament. Sincere and shy, despite profound intelligence, he guarded his independence and in isolation dedicated himself to research in vision and paint. We learn the truth direct from the words of an artist and so can picture Cezanne profligate with paint, squeezing the luscious tubes of expensive colors and exclaiming, “ I paint as if I were Rothschild!” And, more seriously, “I live under the impact of sensations. I go ahead very slowly, as nature appears very complex to me and incessant effort is required. One must look at the model carefully and feel very exactly and then express oneself with distinction.”

Here is a little history from Sotheby’s website.
Paul Cézanne
1839 – 1906
Clairière (The Glade)

oil on canvas, 39 ½ by 32 in. 100.3 by 81.2 cm., Executed circa 1895.

Clairière (The Glade) is one of the largest landscapes Cézanne ever painted, measuring a meter in height. Recent scholarship by Walter Feilchenfeldt has brought a new focus to the significance of size in the artist’s paintings: “There is no question that an artist such as Cézanne chose the size of his canvases with deliberation. Though we will never be able to discover why he used different small sizes, he must have chosen the large ones with the intention of creating an important painting” (Walter Feilchenfeldt, By Appointment Only: Cézanne, Van Gogh and some Secrets of Art Dealing, New York, 2006, p. 237). Feilchenfeldt examines large-scale canvases of figures, still lifes and landscapes: “The most enlightening statistical outcome,” he writes, “is the evaluation of the large-size landscapes. They represent all of Cézanne’s motifs, with the exception of Jas de Bouffan and the Quarry of Bibémus, and are all to be considered among the artist’s masterpieces. There are only two early ones…. Of the remaining seventeen canvases, the majority group themselves by subject in twos, making us wonder if this was intended by the artist” (ibid., p. 240). The present work is paired with Sous-bois (see fig. 1), a part of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s permanent collection.

Provenance
  • Baron Denys Cochin, Paris
    Ambroise Vollard, Paris (acquired on 26 October 1899)
    (possibly) Auguste Pellerin, Paris (acquired by March 1901)
    Emil Staub-Terlinden, Männedorf (acquired by 1923)
    Wildenstein Galleries, New York (acquired from the above in 1942)
    Acquired from the above in 1942 by the present owner
Literature
  • Fritz Burger, Cézanne und Hodler, Munich, 1913, pl. 104 (titled Waldlichtung)
  • Fritz Burger, Cézanne und Hodler. Einführung in die Probleme der Malerei der Gegenwart, Munich, 1918, pl. 109, illustrated (titled Waldlichtung)
  • Fritz Burger, Cézanne und Hodler, Munich, 1919, pl. 109, illustrated
  • Fritz Burger, Cézanne und Hodler, Munich, 1920, pl. 109, illustrated
  • “Vie de Cézanne” and ”Lettres de Cézanne,” L’Esprit nouveau: revue internationale d’esthétique, no. 2, 1920, p. 142, illustrated
  • Fritz Burger, Cézanne und Hodler, Munich, 1923, pl. 108, illustrated
  • René-Jean, “L’Art français dans une collection suisse: La Collection de M. Staub-Terlinden,” La Renaissance de l’art français et des industries de luxe, vol. 6, no. 8, August 1923, p. 472 (titled Sous bois) 
  • Pierre Courthion, “L’Art français dans les collections privées en Suisse (suite): La Collection Emile Staub,” L’Amour de l’art, vol. 7, no. 2, February 1926, pp. 42-43 and p. 40, illustrated (titled Paysage)
  • Lionello Venturi, Cézanne: Son Art, Son Oeuvre, Paris, 1936, no. 670, vol. I, p. 209, catalogued; vol. II, pl. 215, illustrated (titled Clarière and dated 1892-96)
  • Maximilien Gauthier,”L’Art français du XIXe siècle dans les collections suisses: une heure avec Charles Montag devant les chefs-d’oeuvre de la peinture française réunis à la Galerie des ‘Beaux-Arts,'” Beaux-arts: Chronique des arts et de la curiosité, no. 285, 17 June 1938, p. 12
  • “Art News of America: Toledo’s Cézanne,” Art News, 15 April 1943, p. 6, illustrated (titled The Glade)
  • Abraham A. Davidson, “Toledo Acquires Fine Cézanne Landscape,” Art Digest, vol. 17, no. 16, 15 May 1943, p. 9, illustrated
  • Toledo Museum of Art, ed., Museum News, no. 101, March 1943, illustrated on the cover
  • Edward Alden Jewell, Paul Cézanne, New York, 1944, p. 20, illustrated (titled The Glade and dated circa 1892-94)
  • Molly Ohl Godwin, Master Works in the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, 1953, p. 32; p. 33, illustrated (titled The Glade)
  • Alfonso Gatto and Sandra Orienti, L’Opera completa di Cézanne, Milan, 1970, no. 689, p. 117, illustrated (titled Radura and dated 1892-96)
  • John Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne, A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1996, no. 814, vol. I, p. 58, illustrated in color and p. 490, catalogued; vol. II, p. 284, illustrated (titled Clarière and dated circa 1895)
  • Walter Feilchenfeldt, By Appointment Only: Cézanne, Van Gogh and some Secrets of Art Dealing, New York, 2006, p. 242, illustrated in color (titled The Glade and dated circa 1895)
  • Walter Feilchenfeldt, Jayne Warman and David Nash, “Clairière, c.1895 (FWN 302).” The Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings of Paul Cezanne: An Online CatalogueRaisonné https://www.cezannecatalogue.com/catalogue/entry.php?id=790 (accessed on April 1, 2022)
Exhibited
  • Basel, Kunsthalle, Paul Cézanne, 1936, no. 50 (titled Waldichtung and dated circa 1896)
  • Columbus, Ohio, Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, Five Major Paintings by Paul Cézanne, 1936-37
  • Paris, Galerie de la Gazette des Beaux-Arts, La Peinture française du XIXe sièce en Suisse, 1938, no. 11 (titled Clairière and dated circa 1892-96)  
  • Toledo Museum of Art and Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, The Spirit of Modern France, 1946-47, no. 55, illustrated
  • New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., A Loan Exhibition of Cézanne for the Benefit of the New York Infirmary, 1947, no. 55, p. 60, illustrated (titled Clarière and dated 1892-96)
  • Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts, Six Centuries of Landscape, 1952, no. 56, n.p. (dated 1892-96)
  • New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc, Loan Exhibition: Cézanne, 1959, no. 41, n.p., illustrated (titled Clarière and dated 1892-96)
  • Vienna, Kunstforum and Zurich, Kunsthaus, Cézanne: Finished—Unfinished, 2000, no. 113, p. 334, illustrated in color (titled The Glade and dated circa 1895)
  • Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art and Aix-en-Provenance, Musée Granet, Cézanne in Provence, 2006, no. 145, p. 268, illustrated in color (titled Clearing and dated circa 1895)
  • Humelbaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Cézanne & Giacometti—Paths of Doubt, 2008, no. 42, p. 318, illustrated in color (titled Glade and dated circa 1895)
What the auction looked like at the moment of the winning bid on Cezanne’s The Glade, sold at auction on May 17, 2022 going for $41.7 million – same secret buyer also buying the Matisse for $15.3 million on the same night:


  • Who bought the paintings? Was it prearranged?
  • What happened to the money – money equal to the value of the Libbey Endowment?

The painting was deaccessioned because it was mediocre, at least that is what the museum “stewards” and “trustees” gave us as an excuse for them to take it off the museum’s wall and ship it to Sotheby’s. It was all done in secret. Makes one wonder that under these circumstances, since nobody gets to know anything, perhaps our museum could be used as a catalog for a wealthy buyer to arrange a purchase.

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 Mr. Levine.  – The Blade, Controversy surrounds Toledo Museum of Art sale of three paintings by Jason Webber, May 16, 2022

Secrecy at this level is incredibly powerful. The stewards of the museum, with the very high level of trust and privilege given to them, have the responsibility to act within the founding principles of the Libbeys, and to not betray the museum by using Libbey assets to create a whole new fund without any of the rules and the public scrutiny and oversight required by the Libbey Endowments.

This painting, as shown above, meant a great deal to our museum. An issue of Museum News featured it on the cover. It was a big part of our story.

Decades later, for an entirely new set of “stewards” to treat it like crap is so disloyal. To spread it around that “people are sick of the paintings by tired old white men” is subversive and traitorous, not to mention divisive.

They were put in charge of caring for our museum and preserving our collection – it is not theirs to tear apart and sell off.

Lying about the quality of the painting and the number of artworks intended to be collected by one artist as a reason to deaccession an important masterpiece by Cezanne is dishonest and a breach of fiduciary duty.

The Edward Drummond Libbey Endowment Trustees are negligent:
  • Why didn’t the Libbey Trustees put flowers on the graves of the Libbeys on Easter day this year, as required in the Florence Libbey endowment?
  • Why didn’t the Libbey Trustees get the Libbey Endowment Fund Account Statement filed with the Lucas County Probate Court on time this past year? They received a “Notice To Trustee of Failure to File an Account” from the Probate Court Judge.
  • Why is the balance of the Edward Drummond Libbey Endowment Account 20% less in value on June 30, 2022 than it was on July 1, 2021? Are they that bad with money, that the fund would drop in value by $12,000,000, when it never even grew during the high-flying pandemic years when stock portfolios at other museums increased quite a lot?
  • Why would the Trustees of the Trust allow the museum to take money from the sale of two paintings purchased from the Libbey Endowment Fund and not oversee that it was returned to the Libbey Endowment Fund until it was used to purchase art?
  • Isn’t it a conflict of interest for Libbey Endowment Trustees to also be on the Toledo Museum of Art Board of Directors?
  • Why did the Trustees file for a variance from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2022 to use money from the Trusts of both Edward and Florence Libbey that was required to be spent on artwork, to be spent on something else, claiming pandemic hardship, considering that Adam Levine announced in The Blade on March 26, 2023 that they had actually increased their budget by 20% during the past three years? If they could increase their budget by 20%, then they were dishonest about needing a variance due to Covid hardships. They also received $3,484,260 in Covid relief money which was disclosed on their public charity 990 tax filings.

Why didn’t the Toledo Museum of Art celebrate the 110th anniversary of opening of the museum on the first Monday the museum was ever opened, which was for Martin Luther King Day in 2022? They couldn’t manage to celebrate both? Or do they simply not care whatsoever about the museum?

Do the current “stewards” of the museum actually hate the museum? – Are they robbing the museum of assets in order to create an entirely different institution without any of its rules?

Are the current “stewards” of the museum and of the Libbey Endowment purposefully defying the intentions of the Libbeys, who started the museum and funded the museum throughout its history?

Why did the Toledo Museum of Art kick out the local artist community by taking away our once-proud Toledo Area Artists Exhibition that brought the entire community together?

Will the Toledo Museum of Art be selling more artwork and not be telling us?

Should the current “stewards” of the Toledo Museum of Art be allowed to sell off the artwork of the museum and funnel the money into a completely different fund – a new fund without any of the restrictions that the Libbey Trust has – restrictions that helped make the Toledo Museum of Art become what it is today? Don’t the Libbey Endowment trustees have a fiduciary duty to look out after the best interests and the intentions of the Libbeys for the museum, as put forth in the Libbey wills? How could they let this happen?

Is it fair that the Toledo Museum of Art gets grant money in the name of the Toledo Museum of Art for them to spend that money on only on a 2-mile radius for 12 afternoon art sessions for seniors averaging $9,998 for each session (my goodness!) instead of sharing that grant money and programs with the entire Toledo area community of seniors? Will the museum disclose exactly what they are spending the money on?

Categories
Artists of Toledo

Museum shrinking away from founders

The Toledo 2-Mile Radius Museum of Art

It’s Edward Drummond Libbey’s birthday today – he was born on April 17, 1854. Some people care – like the alumni of the high school named after Mr. Libbey that was torn down in 2012 and never replaced, and the runners of the “Florence Scott Libbey 419 Race” in honor of Edward Drummond Libbey’s wife. As for the Toledo Museum of Art, they stopped putting flowers on his grave, letting his memorial look terrible one week ago on Easter Sunday, a day that the museum is required to decorate the grave with flowers, as stipulated by the Florence Scott Libbey Endowment. (see my last post, No flowers for the Libbeys the year.)

Adam Levine’s recent guest editorial in The Blade

After my guest editorial in The Blade on March 18, where I showed that the museum is moving away from the wishes of the Libbeys, Adam Levine countered with his own editorial on March 26, “Museum growing on mission set by founders,” where he grasped to make connections with the founders – as if words, regardless of deeds, would make it so.

I found a lot of inconsistencies in his editorial. Here they are.

Comments on Adam Levine’s March 26, 2023 editorial

First of all, it was George Stevens’ wife, Nina Spalding Stevens, who instituted the art classes. At least give her that much credit. Nina and George ran the museum together. Yes, a woman was a partner in running our museum, way back in 1903. Imagine that.

Secondly, the adult classes back then in the beginning and through at least the 1970’s and 1980’s were quite extensive, nothing like we have now, and to say that they are “as we still know them” is just not true.

The museum let the richness of the adult art classes slip away when the university took over by hiring their own faculty in the 1990’s when moving to the new Gehry building that is attached to the museum. The adult population now has to pay a ridiculous tuition and unfair activity fees to take the university art classes. It’s a great disservice to the community. Over in the museum basement in the old school, there’s not much going on.

This is not true, I went to the University of Toledo, Toledo Museum of Art School of Design in the early 1970’s and my art classes were university credits.

My sister went to the University of Toledo, Toledo Museum of Art School of Design in the 1960’s and her art classes were university credits.

Many artists on this website had art classes at the museum that were applied to their University of Toledo BA degree, going back to the 1940’s, maybe earlier, such as Carroll Simms, LeMaxie Glover, Edith Franklin (who had her credits for her art classes in the 1940’s and 1950’s applied toward her degree in 1987, when she turned 65 and wanted to get her degree so she could teach. All she had to do was pay the extra amount to the university, as adults could take adult art classes at the museum in the past without being a university student, and it was cheaper. University students pay university tuition.)

Except that Adam Levine has shrunk it.

Again, Adam Levine invokes our great museum’s reach when he has actually shrunk the museum’s focus from a community of over a half a million down to a community of 18,000 people all within a small 2-mile radius, forsaking the larger community that is 36.111 times that in head count, from a number which reflects the museum’s local reach in their own words, noted in their 5-year strategic plan – “its 650,000-person metropolitan statistical area.” (see below)

The Libbey Endowment Trust variance

In the summer of 2020, the museum filed a petition with the Lucas County Probate Court for a temporary variance on the Edward Drummond Libbey Endowment Trust to use less than the trust-stipulated 50% of the annual draw on the purchases of art, on account of the economic hardship of the pandemic. They were granted, for two years, ending July 1, 2022, the use of $150,000 per year to be taken from the art purchase fund to be used on “direct care costs of art” instead of on buying art. And I am guessing they did the same thing with the Florence Scott Libbey Endowment Trust, as well.

So it seems contradictory that the museum was able to increase their budget by 20% during the past three years – years that they were claiming hardship and diverting art-purchase funds. And during this time they also sold three of our famous paintings for $59 million, claiming to want to spend it on new art. All it’s been spent on so far is a new financial vehicle that’s making money for financial people.

5-year plan said so

Also, this contradicts the statement in The Blade on March 9, 2021, reporting that the 5-year plan calls for decreasing the percentage the museum draws annually from the Libbey endowment —

The plan calls for financial changes that include increasing the budget from about $18 million to $20 million, and decreasing the percentage the museum draws annually from an endowment that founder Edward Drummond Libbey established for the museum upon his death in 1925.

over budget already, and it’s only been 2 years

Also, the increase in the budget two years ago was about 12%, but now he is saying the budget has increased by 20% — 8% more than the 5-year plan called for.

the remote control of the museum

Why do we have curators who live outside of Toledo? Adam Levine hired a consulting curator, Lenisa Kitchiner, for the museum’s African collection. Although the museum doesn’t mention it in their press 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.

Why did the museum hire a curator of ancient art, Carlos Picon, the director of the Colnaghi art gallery in New York, who is an ancient art dealer? Isn’t that a conflict of interest? 

What is going on that the Toledo Museum of Art is hiring people from out of town who do not live in Toledo, or even in Ohio, to run our museum remotely?

Why “rebrand” the museum?

Adam Levine started a brand-new department, Brand Strategy, to redefine our museum, hiring Gary Gonya, who lives in Colorado, as the director of the department. First, Adam Levine painted our museum as being somehow elitist if not downright white supremacist, (see, Blade article, June 2021) when it had always been a progressive, democratic museum for all of the people.

“Art museums…Elite. Erudite…but for many, the word ‘inaccessible’ must also be included on that list.”

“…their auras of excellence can deter the average citizen from feeling they are places to frequent, enjoy, and learn from without having a gold-embossed degree in one’s back pocket.”

“the art museum really is looked at as a place for the people on the river…”

“Mayor Kapszukiewicz said there historically has been a sense that the art museum was a place for the Florence Libbeys of the world. Mrs. Libbey was a patron of art married to Edward Drummond Libbey, the owner of Libbey Glass Co. and the art museum’s president from 1901–1925.”

Then Gary Gonya came in and said, “We will develop an inclusive brand voice and experience that inspires all people and awakens their connection to the deep human story we all share.” Art Matters, Winter/Spring 2022

Now Adam Levine harks back to the museum’s founders, claiming ownership of the museum’s progressive, democratic history.

It’s as if what they have done by discriminating against most of the people in the Toledo metropolitan area in favor of people who live in a small geographic area, and by selling our best paintings, isn’t actually a big break from the founding principles instead.

A new Communications Manager, a department which is now overseen by Brand Strategy, was hired at the museum who was living in Lansing Michigan. She appeared on TV saying that Toledoans want to see themselves on the walls. She wrote and edited a belated quarterly Art Matters Magazine in September 2022, and then after just a few months of museum employment, she left. There has not been another Art Matters Magazine since then.

TMA was greater when the budget was half as much

Even though they have added the Branding Department, a Chief People Officer and a Director of Belonging and Community Engagement and fully staffed these new departments, and even though they spend $3.6 million more this year than they did three years ago, the museum has not managed to continue the things that has made it great.

The School of Design made the museum great. The great Saturday Children’s Class program that was coordinated with the Board of Eduction to provide about 2,500 public school children (parochial school children too) with an extensive, full-school-year program of art classes is what made the museum great. Free at first, then nearly free.

The adult art class culture and community that the museum used to have made the museum great.

The annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition that brought together the region’s art community, that celebrated their creativity and made everyone feel part of it and welcome made the museum great.

Selling our valuable and historic art

It is so ironic that while expanding budgets and commandeering endowment fund art allocations for other uses, that Adam Levine took away perhaps the most important thing that made our museum great.

Adam Levine sold three of our world-class famous historical French Impressionist paintings that we had in our collection for a very long time. These paintings were a substantial part of the museum’s small but strong collection of French Impressionism. These paintings meant so much to our community, and people came from near and far to see them. They were very accessible. Cezanne is considered the father of modern painting.

The museum’s great art made our museum great.

Invoking Libbey to pass off a lie

Adam Levine took our Cezanne, The Glade, right off the wall and sold it for $41.7 million. He lied to us about the reason why he was doing that, saying that the painting was mediocre and Libbey would have wanted us to get rid of it, and that the museum never meant to have two examples of any one artist.

He embarrassed us to world by promising our other Cezanne to the Art Institute of Chicago’s Cezanne Exhibition taking place concurrently, which is documented full page in the show’s catalog as being in the show. Instead he sold our other Cezanne, The Glade, right off the wall, just two days after the opening of the important Cezanne Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Just wondering why the art acquisition numbers indicate that a lot more art was bought during that time? I saw a work with the number 2022.92. That would indicate it was the 92nd work bought in 2022. And he states here that they acquired only 75 works over 2 years. Did they buy and sell works to flip them, perhaps? Funny thought but with all the weirdness going on at the museum, I wouldn’t put it past them.

TMA has never not explored world art

The Toledo Museum of Art has always explored art of the entire world, it doesn’t need to raise budgets and hire more employees to do so. What the museum needs are art curators who are connoisseurs, not statistical survey satisfiers.

Unimpressive shows and few of them

I counted only five shows in 2022, and they were unimpressive. Two shows in the past two years were showing the restoration of artwork. The second show like this, in the fall of 2022, was used as a fundraiser to raise money for the restoration of certain pieces, which is funny because the restoration of art is what the Libbey variance of 2020 was about (“direct care of art”) – the museum received extra money for this use, yet there they are trying to get the public to pay for the restoration of the glass dress that represents the Libbeys themselves. The variance diverting Libbey’s money for the restoration of art was not even used to care for Libbey’s deeply important and meaningful legacy.

The shape of things to come

The coming show about extinct birds, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg – Machine Auguries: Toledo is running an extra-long time for a show at a museum that claims to be working on bringing in repeat visitors – seven long months – from April 29 to Nov. 26. The show is not sponsored by the Libbey Endowment Fund. Instead, it’s sponsored by 8 different sponsors, including corporations, donors, foundations and the Ohio Arts Council: “Presenting sponsors Susan and Tom Palmer, Season sponsor ProMedica, Platinum sponsors Taylor Cadillac, the Rita B. Kern Foundation, and The Trumbull Family and Silver sponsor Dana Charitable Foundation. Additional support provided by the Ohio Arts Council and the Boeschenstein Family Foundation.” All those corporate sponsors, and still, the museum is charging $10 for non-members to see it.

Nearest neighbors being left out? a big lie

First of all, the museum is free and the doors are open. We can thank Edward Drummond Libbey and Florence Scott Libbey for that. The museum has always welcomed everyone, since Day 1.

The museum’s 2021 5-year strategic plan puts TMA’s reach at 650,000 people for the Toledo Metropolitan area. Over the decade, they report having about 380,000 visitors per year.

The 2-mile radius is 12.57 square miles and the Toledo Metropolitan area is 240 square miles. So therefore, the 2-mile radius of the museum is only 5.24% of the museum’s Toledo Metropolitan area. 8% of the museum’s attendance from the 2-mile radius neighborhood is a lot more than 5.24%, and 14% is way more. So how have the “nearest neighbors” been left out?

“An active approach to community outreach not only increases the level of offsite programming, but in so doing, it allows TMA employees to create personal relationships and invite program participants individually to visit the Museum,” the plan reads. The Blade, March 9, 2021, Museum outlines 5-year plan of growth

All this effort the museum has recently made to hire more people (raising the museum’s budget by $3.6 million with public and private grants) to befriend and make personal relationships with a select area of their total reach, and to hand-hold these neighborhood people to get more to come to the museum, and to pass out free memberships (good for free parking and special shows) at the expense of all other visitors who are not members to which they raised the parking fee by 45%, has made the statistics grow to 14% for the visitors being from the 2-mile radius – a large percentage compared to the overall population of the museum’s reach – but are they accounting for less people coming from other areas? Is reducing the attendance of the other areas part of the plan too? Because they are absolutely leaving everyone else out.

A siphon and a funnel

It’s like a siphon of most of the former efforts the museum made for the entire community being funneled into one place – the 2-mile radius.

Closing museum on a Friday to dismantle the Great Gallery for a private party for themselves and the 2-mile radius

The museum was closed on a Friday in October 2021 to put on a private concert with John Legend that was supposedly for the kids in their outreach program but ended up being a private party for adults. Using the Great Gallery, where most of the Old Master paintings are displayed including the Peter Paul Rubens, they removed the paintings from the gallery walls, risking damage to the museum’s most valuable collection, and replaced them with contemporary paintings by black artists. Information was initially released that it would be for the neighborhood kids they are doing outreach for. However, it was reported in the Sojourners Truth newspaper after the concert that only 40 children attended, who came from the seven different “communities” within the 2-mile radius of the museum. Along with 400 adults who had a party for themselves. Printing a full-page photo of their private concert in the 2021 annual report, the museum asserted that the museum would be doing more private functions like this in the future.

Not very Libbey-like

Why would the museum close its doors to the public on a busy day to have a private party with the neighborhood? Why does the museum feel that the people from the neighborhood can’t relate to the great collection that the museum presently has? Isn’t that a supreme insult to people of the neighborhood? Or is it all just a smokescreen to sell off our great paintings?

Art-making experiences for seniors in the 2-mile radius only
siphoning $9,998 per art-making session

The Toledo Museum of Art just received a grant to give art lessons/art experiences to senior citizens in senior centers. See story in M-Living here: Toledo museum program takes art to older adults

The grant, for $119,916, from Michelson Philanthropy, “a pioneer in creative aging,” will be used to give a 6-session art program at two senior centers serving seniors in the special “2-mile radius” this summer, summer of 2023. That works out to be $9,993 for each art-making session.

There are many seniors all over the city of Toledo, many of them who have never been to the Toledo Museum of Art as well, and to isolate a small section of Toledo to pour $119,916 into 2 senior centers for just 12 art making sessions this summer is divisive, strange, and unbelievable. Toledo has 14 or so Senior Centers, and most of them are out of luck. Many people in their communities are feeling unwanted, isolated, lonely, poor and miserable. Survivors of the pandemic, but for what. To emerge into a world that literally doesn’t want them anymore.

we made you but now we decided to eliminate you

The museum made note in their 5-year strategic plan that they have way too many older educated white women. They don’t like us anymore, so I guess we have to sit the rest of our lifetime out.

How could the museum have known, when we were little children, educated at the museum’s Saturday classes and also having college classes at the Toledo Museum of Art School of Design, that we would stay so interested in art when we would grow up – that we would enjoy going to the museum so much that it would make the Twenty-first Century museum director’s socio-economic and racially profiled and ageist statistics explode his mind? There are some people that don’t fit in to their new branding – also called, discrimination.

Adam Levine’s solution is to cut us out, just like he got rid of the French Impressionist paintings that skewed their art collection so male and so white.

Over the past decade the Museum has received, on average, 380,000 visits per year, which as a percentage of its 650,000-person metropolitan statistical area ranks it among the top five most visited art museums per capita, according to annual statistics from the Association of Art Museum Directors.

Though TMA can claim a history of executing on quality and community, this Museum, like so many others, has implemented its strategies in ways that have not been equally inclusive or equally accessible. Though TMA is known across the world for its outstanding collection, that collection reflects a Eurocentric view of the world. Likewise, the demographic attributes of those 380,000 annual visitors skew Caucasian, female, older, affluent, and highly educated. – TMA Strategic Plan 2021

Exactly WHAT strategies have not been inclusive or accessible? Our museum is NOT “like so many others.” Our museum has been collecting diverse art from the very beginning. For example the Henry Ossawa Tanner painting purchased in 1913, for just one example.

Nothing has ever stopped the museum from making diverse purchases. They have been buying quite a lot of non-European-type-non-white-male art for the past several decades. in fact, I made a survey of art acquired by the museum from 2017 to 2022, and it lines up pretty closely to U.S. Census statistics of nationality and race. See my survey here: The Artists of Toledo Report.

Are they going for full collection-wide parity? Are they not going to collect art by white men altogether?

Money and politics

Could it be that they are using the outreach program to politically organize the 2-mile area, using the neighborhood as a pet anthropological experiment?

Will their radicalism in our meek Midwest town that lets them do anything win them the fame they so desperately seek?

expanding? or pushing us over the edge?

The museum is leaving everyone else out. The museum has always been about art, but now it seems they have traded art for money and politics. Lots of grant money for the taking. They are doing focused outreach in this 2-mile radius area, which is what the Arts Commission had always done in the past.

The museum should be a museum. Let the arts commission be the arts commission.

Adam Levine is the steward of our museum, it is not his to remake. 

People come to the museum. It has art. It has education. It has a beautiful marble pillared building. It is a place for personal contemplation. It is not a place to be bullied. It is not a place to be beaten over the head with politics.

People who run the museum first and foremost must care for the art for future generations. They shouldn’t be selling it off. They shouldn’t be trying to make themselves famous at the expense of Toledoans. It’s ridiculous that they claim to want to remake our museum to set an example for all other museums to follow. As if to let them recreate our museum for the sake of their own notoriety among other museums would make us proud. Our museum was a great example for other museums from the beginning, but it never set out to make fame its priority. The art and the people of Toledo were always the museum’s priority, and should be now.

Our museum always used to welcome everyone and was fair to everyone. Our museum served everyone. Our museum never had to do surveys on the race or gender or income level of their visitors. Our museum never discriminated against people based on their zip code, but they love doing that now.

What George Stevens said in 1903

What would our founders think?

What do you think?

Categories
Artists of Toledo

No flowers for the Libbeys this year

I wrote a blog post last year on May 31 titled “Edward and Florence’s Wills.” I had gone to see their decorated graves that Memorial Day weekend, after reading their wills in the aftermath of the unconscionable sale of our three famous historical French Impressionist paintings. The whole premise of the post was how the new direction of the museum was moving away from the intentions that the Libbeys had for the museum.

https://artistsoftoledo.com/2022/05/31/edward-and-florences-wills/

At the end of the post I wrote this:

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?

It didn’t take the museum long to forget about the Libbeys. Here are photos showing the state that the Libbey Memorial was in on Easter Day, 2023.

No flowers. The Libbey cemetery lot was a mess at high noon, with dead Christmas-decorated plants in broken plastic pots tipped over and strewn aside the monument, the monument itself stained with algae and dirt.

Before I left, when I was walking back to the road, I witnessed people walking by it, hearing their banter in the distance mentioning Libbey, because Libbey is famous and loved by Toledoans, and I watched the two women attempt to put the plastic broken pot upright on the steps of the monument.

I spoke to the man with the two women, who pointed out that the three cut glass orbs that were part of the monument, in front of it, were made from a process that Libbey Glass Company was known for. I hadn’t noticed that before, I thought they might have been lights at one time.

The responsible parties for keeping up the cemetery plot are the Trustees of the Trust (different from the trustees or directors of the museum, but they are interchangeable and at this time, two of them are on both of the boards — Elizabeth Brady and Deke Welles.)

That’s the kind of shambles our museum is in too. Pray for it.

Categories
Artists of Toledo

Crucifixes of Artists of Toledo

The commonality of LeMaxie Glover, Adam Grant, Carroll Simms, William H. Machen and their crucifixion artwork.  clockwise from the top:

LeMaxie Glover, 1968  (1916 – 1984)

LeMaxie Glover made this crucifix for the baptistry at St. Richards Church in Swanton, Ohio. It is carved out of the finest walnut.

LeMaxie Glover was born in Macon, Georgia in 1916. His family moved to Toledo when he was small. He loved his art classes at Macomber and Libbey high schools. LeMaxie got married and had three kids, and supported them with a job working on trains. Art became his hobby. He took classes at the Toledo Museum of Art School of Design in the 1940’s. Encouraged by teachers and at the age of 34, he decided to become an artist.

One day Mrs. McKelvy, a wealthy woman and great supporter of the art museum, called LeMaxie on the phone and asked him if he’d like to study for a master’s degree at Cranbrook Academy of Art, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He couldn’t, he said, because he had a family to support. So she offered to cover all of their household bills with a monthly check. LeMaxie received a scholarship to study at Cranbrook and earned his masters in 1956. That year, the Toledo Museum of Art gave him a one-person show. Offered a professorship at Cranbrook, he turned it down because he felt a strong need to give back to his Toledo community, since he was helped so much. He returned to Toledo and taught art at Woodward High School.

In 1968, amidst the heated-up racial tensions, he asked to be transferred to the inner-city Scott High School, where he could be of more help. 1968 is the year he was commissioned to carve this crucifix, which expresses the strength of Christ and the pain and suffering that Christ felt as he died on the cross.

LeMaxie Glover was a celebrated artist in Toledo. The Toledo Museum of Art was a major influence on him. He got his start with the serious art classes the museum once offered to the adult community. The museum’s most generous patron, Mrs. McKelvy funded his higher education. He showed in the Toledo Area Artists Exhibitions from 1956 to 1964, and in 1973 and 1974, in the museum’s Black Artists of Toledo Exhibitions. In 1970, his was one of the final Toledo Museum local artist solo shows (that had been stopped temporarily while the museum remodeled the back entrance, but then never resumed.)

One of the first to receive a Walbridge study grant from the Toledo Museum, LeMaxie Glover toured and studied at museums in Lisbon, Madrid, Rome, Florence, Milan, Paris, Amsterdam and London. He was a charter member of the Toledo Museum of Art Minority Advisory Committee.

LeMaxie Glover died in 1984 at the age of 67. He inspired generations of artists in Toledo, including Robert Garcia (who actually had the very last local solo show mentioned above, after LeMaxie Glover.)

Adam Grant, 1976  (1924 – 1992)

Adam Grant painted this crucifixion in 1968 for the Corpus Christi University Parish in 1968. It hangs today in the chapel.

Adam Grant’s 2004 retrospective catalog begins with, “Adam Grant was born to be an artist.” It’s all he ever wanted. Born in Warsaw, Poland in 1924, he was a Roman Catholic, and he was a slav – a group victimized by Hitler.

In the fall of 1943, 19-year old Adam Grant was shoved into a train to Auschwitz, imprisoned, and later sent to the labor camp at Mauthausen, near Linz, Austria.

The 11th U.S. Army liberated Mauthausen on May 6, 1945. Adam Grant, extremely weak, very alone in the world, was taken to a camp for misplaced persons. Five years later Adam got himself to America, to Hamtramck, Michigan, where he connected with a creative community and resumed his art. There he got a job designing “Paint-by Numbers” kits and met his future wife, Peggy, who he married in 1954 and moved to Toledo.

The art of Adam Grant, who witnessed so much human transformation and experienced unimaginable pain, was concerned with the human form. The face of Christ that Grant painted is at peace, as if it is the moment that his soul left his body.

Adam Grant suffered from depression all of his life. He was a prolific painter who lived in Toledo. His work was shown internationally, including 33 times in the annual Toledo Area Artist Exhibitions, a solo show at the Toledo Museum of Art, and he was the recipient of a posthumous 2005 Toledo Federation of Art Societies Special Award. He died in 1992 at age 67.

The Grants loved the work of LeMaxie Glover. On their 6th wedding anniversary, Adam gave Peggy a sculpture of a torso made by LeMaxie Glover.

Carroll H. Simms, 1968  (1924 – 2010)

Carroll Simms made this bronze crucifix for St. Oswald Church in Tile Hill, Coventry, England. Titled Christ and the Lambs, it is hanging on the outside front of the church and is viewable from the highway.

Carroll Harris Simms was born in Bald Knobb, Arkansas in 1924, where his great-grandfather, a freed slave, was the first schoolmaster of Bald Knobb Special School for Negros. Carroll was inspired to pursue art from watching his grandmother make quilts. His first drawings were of locomotives and trains.

Hard times brought the family to Toledo in 1938, where Simms flourished and developed as an artist. In 1944 he received a scholarship to Hampton Institute, which opened his mind to the cultural richness of of African-Americans. He returned to the University of Toledo in 1945 and took art classes at the Toledo Museum of Art School of Design. From there, he received a scholarship to Cranbrook, funded by Toledo’s great art supporter, Mrs. McKelvy, who would a few years later do the same for LeMaxie Glover.

Simms graduated from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1950. Staying close to Toledo during his formative years, he took part in an active museum-centered group of peer artists, A.R.T. He showed his work in Toledo Area Artist Exhibitions, where he won the Sculpture First Award for Mother Earth and Honorable Mention for The Workman in 1949. He won the Sculpture First Award again in 1950, and was rewarded with a solo show at the Toledo Museum of Art in 1951.

Carroll Simms lived in Nigeria for two years, not to study art but to soak up the culture. He was the recipient of two Fulbright scholarships to research West African art, in 1968 and 1971. He became a professor at Texas Southern University in Houston. Carroll Simms, together with artist John Biggers, whom he had known since the Hampton days, built the university’s art department from the ground up. Today he is known for his abstract sculpture linking to an African past. His public art is well-known in Houston and the world. He died in Texas in 2010.

Carroll Simms designed his crucifix without a cross, embodying it within the figure of Christ. The sculpture is modern, tribal and medieval, notable for the large hands, asymmetrical arms, foreshortened legs, resolute expression and wide open eyes.

William H. Machen, 1869  (1832 – 1910)

William Henry Machen painted this painting of the crucifix for St. Francis Parish in Toledo, completing a set of the Stations of the Cross.

William H. Machen is Toledo’s first known artist. At the age of 15, he immigrated with his parents and siblings to Toledo from Holland, his family displaced by political exile of 1790’s France.

His grandfather, Constant De Besse (1762-1828) was a Girondist during the French Revolution. As Vice-Mayor of LeCateau (birthplace of Matisse) his duty was to arrest suspects, but he allowed Catholic priests to escape. For this he was arrested and condemned to death by guillotine. He bribed his jailer and, helped by two brothers who were revolutionists, he escaped and crossed the border into Germany. From Wesel he went to Holland where he changed his name to Machen, 1797. (This history written on the family tree.)

William Machen was the “first artist to recognize the beauties and traditions of Northwest Ohio, and to give them a certain dignity and purpose,” making paintings that show us today what Toledo looked like in the very beginning, and even before. He was 20 when he made his first entry in the journal he would keep of all the paintings he made throughout his life. A devout Catholic and organist for St. Francis Parish for 31 years, he painted the Stations of the Cross for the church.

In 1931 a fire nearly destroyed the paintings. The smoke and fire damage to the paintings was treated with a poor restoration, which further damaged the paintings. In 2007, the paintings were crated and stored in the church to await their fate.

William Machen’s great nephew, Jim Machen, hired me in 2012 to photograph the paintings. I put them on my website, and together we tried to elicit support for their restoration. After exhausting all possibilities of support and enduring other disappointments, Jim died in 2020.

Just one month later, the story of the paintings on my website was discovered by an architect who was renovating a church east of Toledo in Genoa, Ohio. Then on Good Friday, 2021, I was commissioned by the priest to digitally restore and print on canvas the stations, using my high quality photographs taken in 2012. What a privilege. I spent days working on each one, so I know what it is like to contemplate and closely witness, as both an artist and a human being, the crucifixion of Christ.

William Machen did not thrive in Toledo, having lived in the city before the art museum was built. He missed the symbiotic relationship that developed between the museum and the local artists. Machen left in 1882 for Detroit where he found more support as an artist. Ironically, he left Toledo right before other artists, such as Parkhurst, Stevens, and Osthaus coming to Toledo were to form the club that was to create the Toledo Museum of Art. Machen eventually moved to Washington DC and died in 1911, seven months before the young Toledo Museum of Art opened the doors of their beautiful new marble building.

William Machen’s work has always been overlooked by the museum. Even when the museum had their recent show about the War of 1812 in 2013, and another in 2015 about artists and the Civil War, the museum did not include Machen’s paintings, which would have enhanced the shows and told our story as a community. (See here) Neither Jim Machen nor I were able to make an appointment with the museum when we were seeking advice about the state of disrepair and possible restorations of the original Stations of the Cross paintings. That’s because William Machen was born too early, and I was born too late. The museum-nurtured Toledo art community that lasted for over 100 years was in the process of being severed by the corrupt ending of the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition when we attempted to seek their advice.

William Machen was a scholar, musician, artist, linguist, writer and faithful son of the Catholic church – an immigrant who tried to make his home and art in Toledo. His body was returned by train to Toledo in 1911 and buried under a modest marker in Calvary Cemetery on Door Street, just a few feet away from the 2-mile radius border of the Adam Levine Toledo Museum of Art.


The four artists have many things in common — each one moved to Toledo for a better life, each one has a train story, and each one expressed through their hearts and souls the crucifixion of Christ. Three out of four had a lot of help from the Toledo Museum of Art, really enhancing their lives on this Earth.

You have to wonder, why has the Toledo Museum of Art forsaken the artists of Toledo?

For money and politics – The Toledo Museum of Art sold out the community for the grants.

Categories
Artists of Toledo

Museum paints a divisive narrative

Here’s what Toledo Museum’s Belonging and Community Engagement Director Rhonda Sewell said, in regard to the museum’s politically motivated DEAI plan, “What it’s saying is that now we are not only going to look at maybe one ethnicity or one race or one region for art history’s sake in our collection.”

The new museum administrators paint our museum as having been racist. Perhaps that is to justify the radical changes they are making, from the narrowing of the museum’s community focus, to the selling of our famous French Impressionist paintings, and now they report the reinstallation the American gallery in the narrow gallery at the back of the museum, moved from the large elegant American galleries of the west wing (that were endowed by the Barbers.) It seems that the museum founded by the Libbeys for all citizens of Toledo is being dismantled and transformed into something entirely different. My letter to Michael Bauer, CEO of Libbey, Inc. who is new this year to the Board of Directors of the Toledo Museum of Art.

March 21, 2023

Dear Mr. Bauer,

As a new board member of the Toledo Museum of Art, I thought you would be interested in my editorial about the Museum that was published in The Blade on Saturday. I’ve attached a clipping for your convenience.

I’ve written to all of the board members several times during last year, but my concerns have never been addressed. I have a website that is pretty detailed about the issues written about in my editorial. artistsoftoledo.com

It’s a shame that these issues need to be brought up. We used to have a wonderful museum that was beyond reproach. It served the entire community, not just a two-mile radius. The Libbeys would not have wanted that, and Mr. Libbey wouldn’t have wanted the paintings sold, diminishing the Museum’s great Impressionist collection to replace his endowment with a new endowment of equal amount, which circumvents the rules he set down for the use of the money and removes him from the picture. The money should have been used to buy art, or it should have been put back into the Libbey Endowment for new purchases of art as soon as possible. The art bought with that money should credit Libbey, not a new endowment.

Our museum had always been for everybody. But today, Adam Levine and Rhonda Sewell have made our museum divisive, using diversity as the excuse.

Rhonda Sewell was quoted in The Blade on October 1, 2022 in regard to the museum’s politically motivated DEAI plan, “What it’s saying is that now we are not only going to look at maybe one ethnicity or one race or one region for art history’s sake in our collection,” yet that is a blatant misrepresentation of the Museum, which has always been one of the most progressive community oriented museums in the country. Funny that the painting they use for promoting their American Art installation, which is by the black artist, Henry Ossawa Tanner, was acquired by the Museum in 1913. But they are quick to erase the Museum’s legacy to paint a false narrative that our Museum has never been diverse.

In response to a survey of museums made by Artnet titled the 2022 Burns Halperin Report, in which the Toledo Museum took part, I made my own survey of the art bought by just the Toledo Museum from 2017 to 2022. My survey is here, The Artists of Toledo Report. It shows an uncanny balance of the percentages of art acquired of American artists by race and sex relative to population percentages of race and sex. In my research of historic Toledo artists, almost all of whom have had a close relationship with the Museum, it shows a good percentage of notable black artists throughout the history of notable local artists, from Frederick Douglass Allen, born in 1886, an early art student of the Museum’s once-great art school who participated in eight Toledo Area Artists Exhibitions including the first one, to Carroll Simms and LeMaxie Glover in the 1940’s and 50’s who got their start at the Museum School of Design and were given scholarships to study at Cranbrook Academy of Art by a wealthy museum patron, Mrs. McKelvy  (who donated her French Impressionist paintings in a specially female-curated collection she gave to the citizens of Toledo via the Museum, from which her Renoir was plucked and sold – so much for honoring women), to the “Black Artists of Toledo” exhibitions that the Museum had in the 1970s and 80’s, to the first black board member of the Museum in the 1990s. And that’s not to mention all of the diverse art collected by the Museum throughout the past century including the African collection that was started in the 1950’s, and especially all of the art acquired in the past 20 years, including art bought for the museum by the Apollo Society. I don’t see how anyone can fault our museum for not being diverse.

To now frame the Museum as having been white art only, and then to disenfranchise the community outside of a two-mile radius is terrible. The Museum should be expanding its reach, not shrinking it. Whereas the Museum for many decades educated 2,500 children from all over the city in a Saturday Class program for children who really wanted it, Adam Levine exploits our communal memory of that program by saying he is bursting “out of the walls” building art making stations for 18,000 residents of low-income housing developments and equipping them with art teachers. People still believe that the Museum has that wonderful Saturday children’s classes program, but today it is a mere sliver of what it once was. The Museum is living on a reputation that it can no longer live up to. The Museum’s school should have grown, not shrunk. Here’s my proposal for how the Museum can start to rebuild the school — and do outreach at the same time.

If you think it’s fair to the citizens of Toledo to have taken that away from the general public and funnel most of the Museum’s educational efforts into a government housing project, I’d really like to know your reasoning. If the children’s Saturday class program had not been available to me growing up, I would not be the artist I am today, and that goes for a lot of Toledo artists. I lived five miles away from the Museum and attended Toledo public schools. I went to the Saturday classes for all the years that it was open for me. It helped me have a successful artistic career in New York. I have work in the Art Institute of Chicago, and I have the Toledo Museum to thank. But now that opportunity has been taken away from most of the youth of Toledo.

Thank you for your time. I’d love to hear back from you.

Categories
Artists of Toledo

Adam Levine’s Toledo Museum of Art

An assessment of the offerings at
Adam Levine’s Toledo Museum of Art
two years into the five-year plan

In 2021, Adam Levine, the new director of the Toledo Museum of Art, announced that he was increasing the museum’s annual budget by $2 million while reducing the draw from the Libbey Endowment. The rules of the Libbey Endowment are such that the money must be used in whole or in part for the exhibition of art, with at least 50% of every dollar spent on the purchase of works of art for the purpose of public exhibition. To draw less from the Libbey Endowment means they are free to do what ever they want. They don’t need to buy art or have great shows anymore.

Just as we had been warned, the shows since then have been sparse and less spectacular. We’ve had Matt Wedel, regional mid-career ceramicist, and his “Phenomenal Debris” filling up the Levis Gallery Nov. 5, 2022 — Apr. 2, 2023, which, as the name suggests, was a real departure for the Toledo Museum of Art, and not in a good way. Meanwhile in the Canaday Gallery, in a redo of a show from two years ago, they decked out the Canaday with artwork in need of repair and solicited donations for the restorations, for the privilege of the donor’s name being briefly associated with the “adopted artwork.” The piece used in the promotion was a 1925 glass dress, representing Libbey himself, ironically, to raise money for restoration instead of using the museum and Libbey’s money to restore the dress. So tacky of them. The show was up an extra-long time, from Sept 24, 2022 to Feb. 5, 2023.  Now they give us a show about astrology and fortune-telling curated by the two new Brian P. Kennedy Leadership Fellows (formerly known as Mellon Fellows) who drew from the museum’s own collection. Feb. 3, 2023 — Jun. 18, 2023, because that is just what they think we like, after we endured the Supernatural traveling show in 2021.

Meanwhile, as evidenced by features in the sporadically published Art Matters Magazine and nearly every press release Levine manages to put out, they go on and on about their curatorial work writing wall text and rearranging galleries, as if they are preparing us for a terrible fright. Lately, they have been moving art around in the American galleries so that the artworks will talk to each other and tell us the TRUE meaning of being an American. Because, as they tell us, being an American changes all the time, and you need to listen to the paintings, look closely and see how they interact. Do they like each other? Can they get along? If you still don’t get it, read the wall text.

But coming to Toledo this summer just in time for Juneteenth is the enthusiastically inspired traveling show called Black Orpheus: Jacob Lawrence and the Mbari Club, June 3 – Sept. 3. It is co-curated by Brooklyn Museum’s young up-and-comer Kimberli Gant, who wrote an accompanying book about the Black American artist (1917–2000) and the 1960’s Nigerian art scene. Read about Jacob Lawerence here on this unrelated time-capsule of a website from the Whitney Museum in 2002, too good not to share.

It is interesting that it is Kimberli Gant’s family who originally owned the burnt miniature American flag piece that the museum acquired last year, purchased with funds from the bequests “by exchange” of dead patrons who happened to have been veterans who fought under the American flag in World War II. Would these Toledo veterans have approved of their money being used to buy a burnt flag? I bet it would break their hearts. The burnt American flag to-date has not been displayed to the public. But the wall text has been written – with great enthusiasm.

Will the museum be showing the burnt American flag piece? Or is it reserved for their “programs,” as the museum’s curator of contemporary art mentioned on Instagram? It must be exciting for the underpaid “contracted” museum teachers (mostly women who are not given health insurance) to pull out this 8×10 burnt American flag painting mounted on a 4-ply museum board and use it to inspire both young and old people at the “outside the museum walls” art-making spaces in federally funded low-income housing projects.

The art-making spaces are funded by a local manufacturer of fiberglas insulation and roofing materials, Owens Corning, and the program is run by the Toledo Museum of Art. Since the museum no longer has their long-time Children’s Saturday classes that took place in the basement of the museum, in a school aptly named The Toledo Museum of Art School of Design, bringing together 2,500 children from all over the city of Toledo every Saturday during the school year, not to mention the many hundreds of adults it served during the week, and now the halls are empty, Adam Levine likes to boast that they have burst “outside their walls” with this new program that serves 18,000 people in housing developments within a 2-mile radius of the museum. Whether the residents want it or need it or like it or not. Everyone else in the city is out of luck because most of their efforts are funneled into the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority, the President and CEO of which, Joaquin Cintron Vega, happens to be a new museum board member, along with Brian Chambers, the CEO of Owens Corning who is also on the board, sitting pretty.

And speaking of Nigerian art, I wonder if the Toledo Museum of Art will be returning their looted Benin Bronze, or are they waiting out the storm, keeping it hidden while conscientious museums across the country are returning their looted art to Africa? Adam Levine must have figured that sooner or later the reports of returned looted art will be old news and used to wrap fish.

If we can only be patient, coming next year will be a show curated by the recently retired Toledo Museum Curator of European Art, Larry Nichols.

It was good timing that Larry Nichols retired right before the $59.7 million sale of the three French Impressionist paintings, two of which were sold to one buyer under suspicious circumstances. And now he’s back on a freelance basis, with a real show to help out the museum since they have not been able to come up with a good one on their own after hiring countless curators. (It’s not that they can’t, they just haven’t wanted to.) There will be a show with not just one, or two, or three, but four Caravaggios, and they will be conversing with the wanna-be Caravaggios in the museum’s collection. How exciting! Put it on your calendar — Jan. 20 – April 14, 2024. I can’t wait!

I’m glad the museum could give our venerable old art curator an outlet during his retirement. Somehow Larry Nichols managed to persuade four museums to trust the Toledo Museum of Art, to get the museums to loan to Toledo their valuable paintings. What a lucky break after the Toledo Museum of Art reneged on their promise to loan our Cezanne Avenue at Chantilly to the Art Institute of Chicago for their major Cezanne exhibition, which opened two days before our museum sold at Sotheby’s our valuable Cezanne painting, The Glade to a secret buyer for $41.7 million, the same mysterious person also buying Henri Matisse’s Fleurs ou Fleurs devant un portrait for $15.3 million. (See page in the show’s catalog, Cezanne, that was printed right before the show.)

What was the hurry to sell our paintings? Was our collection used as a catalog by a collector who made an offer that had a time limit that made Adam Levine betray his commitment to the Art Institute of Chicago? How could Adam Levine have sold our Cezanne right out from under these circumstances and break a promise to an esteemed museum? It hurt the exhibition, it hurt the public, it hurt the historic record, it hurt our institution – it hurt everyone. It is his fiduciary duty to be a good steward and to honor the reputation and legacy of the museum.

The money from the sale of the French Impressionist paintings, the Cezanne and Matisse that came from the Libbey Endowment and the Renoir that came from Mrs. McKelvy’s French Impressionist collection, should have been spent immediately on art, or else it should have gone back in the respective endowments. But instead they started an entirely new financial instrument with the proceeds of the art, making a lot of money for the bankers.

I wonder what the $2 million per year increase in the museum’s annual budget is going toward? They hired two people to be in charge of “People” and “Belonging” (a Chief People Officer and the other is the Director of Belonging.) The shows, as noted above, have been bare minimal offerings. They’ve reduced their public education to a skeletal existence. They closed the museum on Tuesday as well as Monday (except for MLK Day, a new tradition), so it is now only open five days a week. They raised their parking fee by 45%, right after they sold the museum’s three famous French Impressionist paintings. There are huge gaps in acquisition numbers for the art acquired in 2022, keeping the public from finding out what they are buying. This, after they made such a big deal about what they were going to buy. As it is a public institution formed to exhibit art to the public – the public has a right to know.

Why did the museum hire a curator of ancient art, Carlos Picon, the director of the Colnaghi art gallery in New York, who is an ancient art dealer? Isn’t that a conflict of interest? Do the objects being bought now really speak to the museum’s so-called mission of collecting art that looks like us and are they filling in cultural gaps and expanding the narrative of art history? Or is it the same old fluffy stuff?

Adam Levine said in his 2022 Forbes interview for a feature story on beauty without bias, “The superpower that an art museum has is when something goes up on the wall, it’s considered good. We set the canon.” They’ve got the power, and they can do whatever they want with it.

In June 2021, the museum announced that a new gallery was being renovated that would be exclusively for solo shows of local artists. Then there was dead silence about it. It never materialized. After a year and no gallery, the donor himself, Bob Savage, told me that it was delayed because the museum couldn’t decide what to do. That’s how much they regard the local artist community, as if we do not “belong” or fit into their community/people/belonging plan. Then last week, on February 23, very quietly, the Ninth Congressional District Invitational Art Competition high school art show opened the new gallery. No announcement of the gallery or the event was made to the public or to the artists of Toledo, but Congressman Marcy Kaptur was at the event thanking the donors, Sue and Bob Savage.

I remember writing to the museum board two years ago when their five-year plan was published in The Blade (see the first Blade article on this post). I wrote in response to the renewed community focus, and could they please bring back our 100-year old Toledo Area Artists Exhibition? The response was favorable and and Randy Oostra, the CEO arranged for me to have a meeting with Adam Levine, which took place two months later. That day, ready to give my spiel, Adam Levine surprised me with news that he said I would be the first outside of the museum to know – that they were renovating a gallery specifically for solo shows for local artists. One month later The Blade featured a news story (see above) a with a photo of Adam Levine, the donors that will pay for the renovation, and the mayor of Toledo. Then not a word was ever spoken or written about it, not on their website nor in social media, nor in their members magazine, then one mention, occurring in The Blade one year later in regard to the art making spaces in the federal housing projects, that those new art-makers may have a show at the museum gallery. Finally, nearly two years later, the gallery that was promised to professional local artists opened with a show for high school students. I feel sorry for those young artists because when they grow up, they will get no support from the museum, unless they live in the projects.

When the museum talks about community, local artists are not included. The art museum makes their own artists now.

We must trust them and believe they have our best interests at heart, Leslie Adams assured us in 2014. The former president of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies got a one-person show from the museum in 2013 as the first, and as it turned out, the only, biennial solo show prize winner ever. Other TFAS former presidents and museum insiders were also rewarded when the museum corruptly abruptly canceled our prestigious Toledo Area Artists Exhibition that we had had for nearly 100 years.

It is a tragedy for the community that the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition was ended. For nearly a century, it helped countless artists achieve their goals, including three generations of my family. Check out the significance of the show by looking at the bios, clippings and obituaries of the many historic Artists of Toledo on this website. The shows played a prominent role in the careers of nearly every successful artist in Toledo. The demise of this annual show hurts our very DNA.

Brian P. Kennedy, director from 2011 to 2019, is oddly honored. The Mellon Fellow title has been renamed to “Brian P. Kennedy Leadership Fellow.” It’s too bad that one of the first two Mellon Fellows hired by Kennedy (Halona Norton-Westbrook) was involved in the corruption of the Toledo Area Artists Exhibition in 2014. It gave the Mellon Fellowship a bad name. But with the new name, what kind of role model for leadership is Brian Kennedy after he resigned from the Toledo museum just 18 months before the end of his 10-year contract to go to the Peabody Essex Museum, then he quit that museum after only 17 months? Of his leaving the PEM, Kennedy said:

After thirty years in museum leadership on three continents, this current unprecedented period of racial, social, economic and political turmoil has given cause for serious thinking and new perspectives on the profound changes that are happening in our world and I have decided to pursue a new challenge.

Which is extremely weird.

His departure caused a great deal of damage to the Toledo Museum of Art in 2019, because the museum was not prepared with an heir apparent. It led to the unfortunate situation we are in today. The board members ended up hiring the museum’s other Mellon Fellow hired by Kennedy – Adam Levine – who had left Toledo, but then came back for this. But after just a couple of years and this track record, what is going on?

The museum has traded connoisseurship for money and politics. Art can be political, but a public art museum cannot be, because that would be divisive and polarizing. The Toledo Museum of Art was built on the principle of community.

In summary, our museum was built with wide open doors inviting everybody to walk through them. Before it was reduced to a bare minimum, the museum had the best educational system of any museum in the country, serving every person in the entire city who had a desire to learn about art. It was the hub of a robust local artist community that for many years had monthly local shows, and for 95 years had the prestigious annual juried show for local and regional artists. Not to mention the great art collection.

The art collected by the museum was chosen by art connoisseurs for its quality and encyclopedic representation of the world, as opposed to now, where it is chosen to serve a political agenda or fill a quota. From early-on and throughout the past century, our museum had been highly respected and drew great leaders such as Otto Wittmann and Adam Weinberg. The museum always had many shows going on at once and events of public interest. They published newsletters, catalogs and magazines keeping the public informed of all their goings on.

The museum’s mission was to educate and exhibit art to the public.

Today the mission seems quite vapid. That is, to get other museums to notice us and want to be like us. “THE MUSEUM SEEKS TO BECOME THE MODEL ART MUSEUM IN THE UNITED STATES FOR ITS COMMITMENT TO QUALITY AND ITS CULTURE OF BELONGING.” Yet how do we look to other museums when promises are broken? It is hypocritical to appear so “woke” while holding on to a Benin bronze looted art, not exhibiting it, not sending it back to Nigeria, and not a word about it one way or another. Their mission statement reveals their emptiness and hypocrisy, just like their new ad slogan “Art brings Toledo together,” when it’s doing quite the opposite.

The museum should be serving all the people who live here. Local artists matter. Our museum should not be used as a social experiment or as a stepping stone for the director’s next career move. But then it all seems like a smokescreen while they sell our valuable and beloved paintings, and who is profiting from that? Just look at everything that is at stake – artwork that is worth billions collected over 120 years.

With their two million dollar increase in the annual budget for the past two years, they have so much less to show for it.

It’s OUR museum. Where is the oversight?

Who gave them the right to take away the fundamental qualities of our museum, sell our art, demean our founders, kill our local traditions, invade our museum, live off our stellar reputation like blood-sucking vampires, and take our museum in a new direction all their own? Who are these people?

Categories
Artists of Toledo

Marcy Kaptur, politics and art museums

Marcy Kaptur is right. This country is run by wealthy people on the East Coast and West Coast, and they don’t relate to the vast working-class people of the Midwest. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo, who holds the record for being the longest-serving woman in Congressional history, said the floor of Congress had always been lively with debates on the issues, but now it’s just a theater playing to the media.

You might think Ms. Kaptur was talking about the Toledo Museum of Art.

The 2022 Burns Halperin Report

The 2022 Burns Halperin Report is a survey which illustrates an extreme lack of diversity among 31 American museums, specifically, art made by Black Americans and women. The Toledo Museum participated in the survey. The survey mentioned only a couple of East Coast and West Coast museums doing a good job adding diversity to their new collections. Although the Toledo Museum of Art has a good record, it was not mentioned.

The Artists of Toledo Report

The Artists of Toledo Report is a survey of the artists whose art was acquired by the Toledo Museum of Art between 2017 and 2022. The survey shows that the Toledo Museum of Art has been almost completely balanced regarding the diversity of the artists whose work was collected during the past six years, except for a 30% imbalance between non-American women and non-American men.

Just passing through…

Mr. Levine has laid out a road map for the museum to become what he calls the “model museum in the United States,” one whose collection reflects the demographic makeup of the country, and where people feel “a sense of comfort and psychological safety in every interaction with the institution’s brand on-site and off-site,” as he put it. Itʼs About Time.ʼ Museums Make Bids for Their Communities. New York Times, May 21, 2021

The Toledo Museum has never had to try so hard to be a “model museum,” the museum has democratically served the entire community since 1901. However, certain new museum directors passing through on their upwardly mobile path in the museum world have stripped our museum of its democracy. The current director, Adam Levine, is from New York. He plays to the East Coast and West Coast media with disingenuous rhetoric, seeking publicity by exploiting the diversity issue.

Never mind that the museum’s revered public art education program and local artist shows that went on for nearly 100 years have been eliminated.

The Big Middle

The Toledo Museum of Art is in Marcy Kaptur’s district. Like Marcy Kaptur, the museum has a solid progressive democratic foundation that serves the working-class. The Toledo Museum of Art used to have a formidable public art education program. It had a local artist exhibition tradition unlike any other museum in the country. The educational program and the local art shows served multiple generations of Toledoans. These are the roots of the museum, through which the collecting of diverse art has evolved naturally.

A diverse crowd in front of the Toledo art museum, 1919.

Frederick Douglass Allen, born in 1886, is the earliest recognized black artist in Toledo. He was one of the first students of the museum’s public art classes. He showed in the first annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, and seven subsequent annual shows at the Toledo Museum of Art. I spoke to the Warren AME Church, where Frederick Douglass Allen was a member, about any history they knew of blacks and the Toledo artist community. I learned that the early black community had more urgent priorities to deal with when they migrated to Toledo, so the artist Frederick Douglass Allen was ahead of his time.

As for women, Nina Spalding Stevens, wife of the 1903–1926 museum director, George W. Stevens, served as the associate director of the museum. She also created the educational program. If there has ever been a bias against blacks and women at the museum, it would be difficult to find. The art classes and shows provided a level playing field for a diverse community of artists. Many scholarship recipients were blacks and women. The local solo shows have always been diverse. In the 1970’s the museum hosted two group shows for the “Black Artists of Toledo.”

In the 1990’s, with the first black Trustee appointed to the Toledo Museum of Art Board of Directors, an initiative was begun to add more diversity to the collection. To understand the museum’s collection of “diverse art,” one must first understand that “diverse art” is made by contemporary artists, and the Toledo Museum of Art barely collected contemporary art until the 1960’s. Today the museum board itself is quite diverse, with a track record for adding diversity to the museum’s acquisitions.

Beauty without bias

“The superpower that an art museum has is when something goes up on the wall, it’s considered good. We set the canon.” Adam Levine quoted in Forbes, ‘Beauty Without Bias’ At The Toledo Museum Of Art, Feb. 28, 2022

In his arrogance, Adam Levine claims that museums are in the unique position to put anything on their walls and call it art, and because it’s in a museum it is considered good. How odd for the Toledo Museum director to suggest that collecting art at our fine museum could be turned into a political anthropology experiment. The connoisseurship of our curators is what has grown our collection. Our museum is about great art — not politics. It’s about skilled curation, and then letting people decide for themselves what they like. That Adam Levine brought in a Branding Department to redefine our museum, after ripping out the democratic soul of the local community from the museum, using diversity to attract the attention of other museums (and grant foundations), is such a conceit. How ironic that, with such a record for collecting diverse art in the past six years, our museum didn’t get even as much as a peep in the 2022 Burns Halperin Report. But then we are in the Big Middle, and nothing can take the museum out of it, so Adam Levine might as well be content with making our museum functional again for our own large Midwest community, as unexciting for him as that might be.

Our famous French Impressionist paintings thrown out the door.
Cannibalizing our museum

The biggest hoax on the community was Adam Levine selling our historic French Impressionist paintings while quoting Edward Drummond Libbey, “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,” as if Libbey would approve of the selling of our major Cezanne, Matisse and Renoir paintings. Adam Levine claimed that the sale was for “diversity,” when over the past six years, the museum has meticulously added an equitable ratio of Black Americans to Women to Other American artists acquired by the museum. He lied about data. He betrayed a peer museum in Chicago by reneging on a loan of our Cezanne painting for their show. He lied about the quality of the paintings being sold, and the intentions of the museum. Two paintings were sold to the same buyer for $59 million! Eight months later the Toledo Museum of Art does not have one artwork purchased with that money to show for it.

Impressionism speaking for our community

It is sad to see the museum’s French Impressionist paintings commercialized at the brand-new Lucas County Glass City Convention Center — including our only remaining Cezanne, Avenue at Chantilly, which is featured as anonymous wallpaper framing a multi-level staircase. This is the painting that was promised to the Chicago Cezanne Exhibition. Obviously, the museum and the Lucas County government believe that Impressionism speaks for our community. They are also using an uncredited Van Gogh for their two-story escalator alcove and a uncredited Monet on a large vinyl mural to decorate the second floor hallway. According to The Blade’s news story on the new Public Art, the convention center is “showcasing the museum’s collection.” Yet just eight months ago, the museum sold three original paintings from their small and valuable Impressionist collection that people came from near and far to see. That Adam Levine chose these paintings for the convention center, out of 30,000 possible choices, right after the unpopular and controversial deaccession of the Impressionist paintings, shows a frightening lack of honesty, integrity, vision, sensitivity and leadership.

Pass the remote, please

Recently, a new communications manager was hired at the museum who lives in Lansing Michigan. Her message to the people of Toledo was that Toledoans want to see themselves on the walls. The irony of an out-of-towner telling Toledoans what they want to see at the museum! The museum has a new department — Branding — and the director of the Branding department lives in Colorado. The Curator of Antiquities, Carlos Picon, is an art dealer in New York. (no kidding!) The African Art Curator, Lenisa Kitchiner, is the Chief of African and Middle Eastern Division at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Why is our museum director turning the controls over to the East Coast and the West?

We can be thankful to Marcy Kaptur for working so devotedly for our Midwest community for the past 41 years. We are extremely lucky to have her fighting for us in Congress for all these decades. The Toledo Museum of Art has had seven directors during those 41 years. (If only we could have cloned Otto Wittmann, the museum’s fourth director, who grew the museum for 30 years.)

Marcy Kaptur is the real deal. With Marcy Kaptur, as with the Toledo Museum of Art, you won’t know what you are missing until it is gone.


Another “real deal” is Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones, mayor of Toledo 1897-1904, whose house stood where the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle stands today, and who inspired Marcy Kaptur so much that she wrote her college thesis on him. See my post from 2021 to put into perspective the progressive beginnings and democratic legacy of the Toledo Museum of Art: Whitlock, Jones and June Boyd

Categories
Artists of Toledo

The Artists of Toledo Report

Remember when The Toledo Museum of Art sold our three famous French Impressionist paintings for 59 million dollars – Adam Levine claiming it was to buy diverse art, because their data showed a lack of diversity? “A collections audit indicated the greatest imbalances exist across gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, nationality and geography, and material/medium.” Remember when Adam Levine told us that the museum never meant to have multiple works by any one artist, and that our Cezanne, Renoir and Matisse paintings were no good? Quoting Edward Drummond Libbey, he said, “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.”

see blog posts:

Covering the director’s memo mistake

Open letter to the Toledo Museum of Art Trustees

Edward and Florence’s Wills

Toledo’s broken promise to the Cezanne Exhibition in Chicago

I thought it was BS then, but last week it really hit home, when the 2022 Burns Halperin Report was published, which highlighted an extreme lack of diversity among museums as a result of a survey of 31 American art museums. The Toledo Museum of Art was one of them.

The stats revealed by the 2022 Burns Halperin Report were stunning and shocking, but it just didn’t ring true in regard to our museum, so over the weekend, I did my own little survey, with data that I collected from the Toledo Museum of Art’s public online collections database.

The purpose of my survey is to compare our percentages to the percentages of the survey of the Burns Halperin Report, because The Toledo Museum of Art took part in the survey as one of the 31 American art museums whose art acquisition data was examined.

The Artists of Toledo Report:

A breakdown of the race and sex and nationality of the artists whose works were acquired by The Toledo Museum of Art during the years 2017–2022 in the categories of painting, photography, ceramics, glass, sculpture, prints, drawings, metals and textiles, a total of 204 artists.

The Artists of Toledo Report Findings:

37.5% Women 62.5% Men
57% American 43% Rest of World
28% American Women 30% American Men
14% Black American 4% Native American 40% Other Americans

For comparison, the 2022 Burns Halperin Report:

These are the basic differences between the methodology of the 2022 Burns Halperin Report and the Artists of Toledo Report:

The Burns Halperin Report surveyed each of the 339,969 works acquired by 31 museums from 2008 to 2020, whereas, for simplicity, I surveyed the 204 artists themselves who had work acquired between 2017 through 2022, at only one of the surveyed museums – The Toledo Museum of Art.

The Toledo Museum of Art added one or more works made by the 204 artists between 2017 and 2022. I counted the artists, I did not count the number of works added. (Perhaps there were 300 to 500 works, as there were multiple works from some of the 204 artists. It is easily verified on the online database and in museum annual reports. I thought it was the artists themselves who were important for my report.)

The 2022 Burns Halperin Report differentiated Black Americans from all artists.

I differentiated Americans from the Rest of World artists and compared Black Americans to the out-group “Other Americans” (Caucasian, Japanese-American, Chinese-American, Vietnamese-American, Iraqi American, etc.) I added Native Americans in consideration of this under-represented group that is doing better. Not having a breakdown for rest of the world group, for which Toledo consisted of 43% of all artists, may have skewed the perceived U.S. population race ratios of the Burns Halperin Report, but even so, how different the two reports look! Black Americans compared to Other Americans appear to be well-represented at the Toledo Museum of Art, where it is gender equity that appears to be needed the most.

The fact is, The Toledo Museum of Art is racially diverse,
but lacks gender equity.

The Toledo Museum of Art still has nothing to show for the sale of our Matisse, Renoir and Cezanne paintings. What happened to that money, and what financial institutions are profiting from it? That money should have gone back into the Libbey Endowment to be used for art. What deals were made to motivate our museum to renege on Toledo’s commitment to the Cezanne Exhibition in Chicago, that made Adam Levine sell our Cezanne the very week of the opening of the Cezanne show? Our painting was supposed to be in that show – it appears full-page in the Exhibition catalog! Our museum, seven months later, has added no new artwork with the proceeds of that urgent sale.

So many lies to the community. The Toledo Museum of Art took advantage of the politics, and pulled the wool over the people who live in Toledo. Not cool.

The rise and fall of a once-great museum

As for women, the museum has hurt the women of the community by taking away the two things that gave women equality – adult art classes and local artist shows at the museum. There is no disconnect between “local art” and “museum art” — I found that one artist of Toledo (Jack Schmidt) and one artist from Toledo (Joseph Kosuth) had been collected by the museum during the past six years. They are both men, but if we were to go back a few years, we would find Toledo women among the Toledo Museum of Art’s new acquisitions. Among them are Edith Franklin and Leslie Adams, both with multiple works in the museum’s collection.

Each one of these Toledo artists owes their beginnings to the late, great programs of the Toledo Museum of Art. Jack Schmidt, glass artist, was born in Toledo and learned his craft from Dominick Labino. If it had not been for the Toledo Museum of Art School of Design, there would not have been the historic Studio Glass Workshop in 1962, during which Dominick Labino formulated a way for individual artists to work in glass. Imagine that. Today, glass is  the largest category of art collected by the museum, complete with its own world-class building.

Edith Franklin, born 100 years ago, who I wrote about this month, is a prime example of an artist who benefited from the museum’s classes (from age 10 to age 65) and the vibrant local art shows the museum has since done away with. But at least we have Edith’s work in the museum to remember that by.

Leslie Adams is also a product of the museum classes and local art shows. She was in multiple Toledo Area Artist Exhibitions before they were eliminated, culminating in her own one-person show at the Toledo Museum of Art in 2013.

Joseph Kosuth benefited from the museum’s free Saturday children’s art classes. Then, after studying at the Cleveland Institute College of Art, he left Ohio and never came back. His work has been acquired by top museums including the the Museum of Modern Art very early-on in his career. The Toledo Museum is lucky to finally own two works by Joseph Kosuth, acquired in 2018 and 2019.

I myself have benefited greatly by being able to take the museum classes, which I took from age 10 through my third year of college. I went on to have a successful photography career in New York. I have work in the Chicago Institute of Art and other museums. I helped Adam Weinberg (who is now director of the Whitney Museum of American Art) set up the first photography darkroom underneath the Peristyle when he was a Fellow at the Toledo Museum in the late 1970’s, and I was the first photography teacher of the free Saturday museum classes in 1979. Without the educational opportunities I had at the museum, I know my life would have been profoundly different.

Perhaps it was the democratic enrichments that the museum gave to the community in the past that have made the Artists of Toledo pie chart look more balanced than the Burns Halperin Report. So, most museums are not like the Toledo Museum of Art? We knew that. But it is odd now, that the Toledo museum has inwardly stripped the community of these great resources, while outwardly, striving for diversity as a “brand.” Fairness came so naturally to the Toledo Museum of Art in the past. But now, with the school gone, and the shows gone, within that vacuum they have hired a large staff to oversee diversity. I can only assume there must be a lot of grant money for that.

The Toledo Museum of Art was apparently a very unique museum. It did indeed have such a great reputation that in 1946, it attracted the great Otto Wittmann, who came to Toledo and became its director because it had such a great education department and community involvement. He grew the museum’s collection for 30 years, all that time with the classes and the local art shows going strong.

The Toledo Museum of Art should bring back classes for adults and children and reinstate the local artist shows. This would help with gender equity, both within the Toledo community and within the larger world. It would help artists in our community reach their potential, if anyone cares.

Proposal to hire art teachers at the Toledo Museum of Art