Thursday, July 28, 2016

Indiana University Museum Fails Again Spring/Summer 2016

Editor's Note: Noted collector, scholar, and artist Ray Wielgus passed away in 2010 leaving his world class ethnographic collection and a large cash bequest to the Indiana University Museum at Bloomington.  Ray's bond with the University started in 1957 when he lent objects to noted African scholar Roy Sieber who went on to create more successful post graduates than anyone before or since. In short they were both immensely talented and very close friends. Ray committed his collection to Bloomington before Roy passed away. In the years following Sieber's death Wielgus continued his association with IU and his promised gift. During this time certainly from 2006 onward assurances were made by both Heidi Gealt and Diane Perine that a new installation was in the works. A number of Ray's friends including me pleaded with Ray to impose some sort of controls on his bequest to ensure that the collection would be reinstalled properly. Ray believed Heidi and Diane and rejected these oversight suggestions whenever it came up before his death in 2010. Almost immediately Ray's closest friends and his executor knew the bequest was not going to go as planned. Many of you reading this already know that I have already covered this failure to respect Ray's wishes in previous issues of the Newsletter. You can search on Bloomington and see the report of my trip in 2012 to the IU Museum. I did get some criticism from Bloomington for this negative piece on their museum.
Before releasing the final sum of money Tom Senkerik (Wielgus executor) and I agreed to meet with Heidi Gealt, Diane Pelrine, and University lawyers at the museum in April 2013. We were given assurances that the collection was to be reinstalled. Remember Ray's bequest included almost 2.5 million dollars in cash plus a collection worth millions, which I can personally confirm because I did the appraisal. In a letter to Jane Katcher in 2011 the University confirmed that they would need 1.5 million for the new installation. Obviously either the number crunchers can't count or the University's priorities are elsewhere. In light of the huge bequest from the Eskenazi's  and new director, David A. Brenneman, I decided to make another visit to the museum to see if IU President Michael A. McRobbie had kept any of the promises made by the University.  He didn't. As of July 2016 they updated the lights and move the pieces around a bit.. no new installation. As you can see below from the Kiwai piece, it didn't move. The standing figure from Angoram which we call "Big Red" moved from the edge of one wall to a corner. Both objects are easily accessible to anyone.

Kiwai figure 2012
Kiwai figure 2016

Angoram fig 2012
Angoram fig 2016

Obviously for the many the friends of Ray Wielgus and the  passionate supporters of ethnographic art there is little we can do now to move a 10,000 pound gorilla like Indiana University. Obviously, the leadership of the University counted on that. But for those of us that are still vertical we can certainly be more careful with our last wishes and we can certainly hold those in contempt that will do or say anything to further their goals. Just maybe as evidenced by both our political left and political right possibly we are ready now to confront and challenge leadership. I wonder how many years after Sidney and Lois Eskenaki leave this planet will Indiana University forget their generous gift. I am betting that will be a factor of how much money is on the line and how many in the Eskenazi family want to fight. I hope they do better for their patrons than we did for Ray Wielgus.

  1. BLOOMINGTON - Indiana University Art Museum receives $15 mil to renovate its IM Pei building
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi.
BLOOMINGTON, IN.- Indiana University Art Museum has announced a landmark gift of $15 million from Indianapolis-based philanthropists Sidney and Lois Eskenazi. This is the largest cash gift in the museum's history and a lead gift toward renovation of its I.M. Pei-designed building, which opened in 1982.
The museum will be renamed the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art in recognition of the couple's generosity, effective immediately.
In addition, thanks to the gift-matching program and other generous philanthropy of the "For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign," another $20 million will be invested by the university to be used for renovation and gallery enhancements at the museum. These improvements will be designed by Susan T. Rodriguez of Ennead Architects of New York City and Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf of Indianapolis, and are anticipated to be completed by 2020.
The Eskenazis are also donating their collection of nearly 100 works of art, composed primarily of prints by 20th-century European and American masters. The collection includes a significant group of 34 etchings, lithographs and drawings by Spanish master Joan Miró from later in his career (1960s-1970s), complementing the museum's existing collection of 35 earlier Miró works from the 1930s to 1950s.
Other artists represented in the Eskenazi collection include Marc Chagall, Alexander Calder, Pablo Picasso, Sam Francis, Tom Wesselmann, Jean Dubuffet, Salvador Dali and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. This gift also marks the first works by Keith Haring and Paul Jenkins to enter the museum's collection.
One of the foremost university art museum collections in the country, the Eskenazi Museum of Art's encyclopedic collection contains more than 45,000 objects from ancient to modern times, including one of the country's leading holdings of art from Africa, the South Pacific and the Americas, as well as an extraordinary collection of modern and contemporary art.
"For 75 years, the Indiana University Art Museum in Bloomington has been one of the premier university art museums in the world and home to an acclaimed collection of works of art and other important artifacts from nearly every culture throughout history that has produced art," IU President Michael A. McRobbie said. "The museum has been a superb complement to IU's internationally renowned programs in the arts and humanities and has enabled IU to share these riches with the world.
"This is a tremendous moment for the art museum, and we couldn't be more grateful to Sidney and Lois for this incredible leadership gift toward the renovation," said David A. Brenneman, the museum's Wilma E. Kelley Director. "It seems only fitting that we are embarking on this exciting new chapter with the renaming and renovation as we celebrate the museum's 75th anniversary this year.
"The Eskenazi Museum is an incredible resource for the students, faculty, the Bloomington community and the entire state of Indiana, and we will continue to look for ways to engage new audiences and foster the interdisciplinary collaborations made possible by being a part of Indiana University. We look forward to sharing more details about this exciting project later this year."
"With this gift we are combining two of our greatest passions: Indiana University and art," Sidney and Lois Eskenazi said in a statement. "We are delighted that our collection, which we have loved building and living with, will find a home at the museum. We are excited to be a part of such a transformative project for the museum and the university, and we know that the newly renovated museum will be a go-to destination on campus and for the entire Bloomington community."
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi are recognized philanthropic leaders in central Indiana. Sidney Eskenazi grew up in Indianapolis, and both he and Lois Eskenazi are Indiana University graduates. Lois Eskenazi earned a bachelor's degree that enabled her to work as a medical and lab technician, and Sidney earned a Bachelor of Science as well as a Doctor of
Jurisprudence. Sidney established a successful real estate development company, Sandor Development Co., in 1963 and has built it into one of the nation's leaders, with 129 properties under management in 23 states. In addition to real estate development, Sidney has been a member of both the Indiana and the Illinois bar associations for more than 50 years.
The Eskenazis are longtime donors to Indiana University, starting in 1970 when Sidney established a scholarship fund. They have also supported the arts and art students by giving to the Herron School of Art and Design on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus, where Eskenazi Hall bears their name.
In 2011, the Eskenazis contributed $40 million for a new hospital and medical campus in Indianapolis now known as the Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital and Eskenazi Health, which at the time was one of the largest gifts to a public hospital in the United States.

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