You arrive at The Toledo Museum of Art Through the Old West End of Toledo.
Coming from the east, Cleveland, or the west, Chicago, Toledo is a “drive-by” on the way to more exciting destinations. But the famed Toledo Museum of Art is well worth a trip into town and a district called The Old West End. It is not a lovely entry to the Museum compound that sits at the far south of the District. The area contains "the largest neighborhood of late Victorian, Edwardian, and Arts & Crafts homes east of the Mississippi" (Wikipedia), but most of them are hard used, in poor repair. It’s a district of endless possibilities, looking for real estate investors.
The city streets around the Museum are under extensive rebuilding, making it easy to miss turns. But the Museum’s parking employees were terrific guides. Parking is available almost at the Museum door, and in the summer, remains open until 8 pm.
The Toledo Museum of Art is an Impressive Neo-classical Building
The Museum grounds and buildings are a welcome retreat of low, horizontal white marble, neo-classical buildings, designed by Edward B. Green and Harry W. Wachter, with 16 columns, a copper roof, and a frieze of acanthus leaves. It’s been renovated and expanded four times since it opened in 1916. The Museum remains private funded (lots of Libbey glass money in the Foundation) and free to the public.
Though the Museum has over 30,000 pieces in its collection, the displays were carefully curated, spacious and approachable. Both two and three-dimensional pieces were featured throughout each gallery, a newer trend in museums who now gather into a single display all art work representative of an era, rather than segregating art from sculpture from furnishings.
The Toledo Museum of Art Has an Impressive Collection of Contemporary African Artists
A moving sculpture sets the tone in the front lobby. Homeless Child is by Yinka Shonibare, an artist of Nigerian extraction, living in the UK. Shonibare’s works are executed by assistants under his tutelage, as he is paralyzed on his left side because of transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord, when he was 18. The Homeless Child bears the weight of many suitcases, silently expressing the heartbreak of moving house to house many times.
A similar piece in both feeling and ethnic background is Mary Sibande’s Rubber Soul, Monument of Aspiration, shown further into the galleries. Sibande’s work with fabric creates an illusion that is at once regal and sumptuous in the execution of the dress, and earthbound in flat green cotton, with white apron and head tie. The untitled gold lady by Ravinder Reddy (India) was large, ravishing and mesmerizing. Note the Chuck Close Portrait of Alex in the background.
Another interesting comparison is the 145-year-old marquetry embellished cabinet by French manufacturer Cramer & Co., and the contemporary Kitchen by Alison Elizabeth Taylor of wood veneer, oil, acrylic and shellac. The craftsmanship in both pieces is superb. But Taylor’s is remarkable in that marquetry is almost a lost skill, especially on this scale and this fine. Kitchen is 92 x 116 inches.
One of Many Glorious Dutch Paintings
In the Dutch collection the Allegory of Vanity by Jan Miense Molenaer stood out. His sumptuous depiction of all things luxurious is a tour de force of the Haarlem technique with fabric and detail. You can lose yourself for hours examining every little detail. Then pretend that you can section the piece into mini-paintings, and see how each is a stand-alone masterpiece.
The Jewelry Room
Tucked among the medieval and renaissance works is a small room of jewelry – exquisite pieces – and, as with the rest of the museum, not your usual ornaments. The pearl watch still includes its tiny key. The art nouveau broach is timeless. The glass bead necklace is representative of the glass heritage of Toledo.
14th to 16th Century Religious Art
The magnificent religious art—a cloister with stained glass from the 14th century, one of the Wings of Wüllersleben, 16th century the 15th century Virgin and Child by della Robbia,is gathered in its own compelling space. The Museum owns all three pieces of this Wings triptych.
The Museum's Newest Addition is by David Hockney
Seemingly out of place in an assortment of 18th and 19th century pieces, but strategically placed near the central entrance, is the Museum’s newest addition, David Hockney’s The Card Players. A wonderful, warm piece by one of the world’s greatest contemporary figurative realists. Note the 18th century card tables placed in front to draw the painting contextually into the gallery.
This tour took about three hours and covered only 35% of the Museum. It’s a treasure. Unlike Chicago, Cleveland and New York, where embracing the displayed art is a lifetime journey, Toledo has a stunning collection of manageable size. There is a separate Glass Pavilion with its own collection of glass art and hands-on demonstrations of glass art creation. Please don’t blow-by Toledo when you are visiting the mid-west. The Toledo Museum of Art is worthy of its own trip.
|Tuesday & Wednesday||10 a.m. – 4 p.m.|
|Thursday & Friday||10 a.m. – 9 p.m.|
|Saturday||10 a.m. – 5 p.m.|
|Sunday||noon – 5 p.m.|
Closed Mondays, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
Toledo Museum of Art
2445 Monroe St
Toledo, OH 43620