Media outside Britain noted exhibit’s origins


While the British press largely ignored the Toledo Museum of Art’s role in co-curating Manet: Portraying Life on display now in London, the rest of the international media did a more comprehensive job describing the exhibit’s origins.

News Web sites in Germany, France, Portugal, Italy, Spain, and even Indonesia found room to mention the Toledo museum as co-curator of the exhibit featuring the work of the influential 19th-century French impressionist Edouard Manet.

The Italian publication Cultura included a reference to Toledo and the fact the exhibit opened here last year before moving to London in the lead of a bylined story the week the exhibit opened. Several publications online, including Spain’s ABC and France’s Le Point included quotes from Toledo co-curator Larry Nichols the same week.

By contrast, even though the exhibit opened in late January in a blockbuster show in Fleet Street’s back yard at the Royal Academy of Arts, the major London daily newspapers largely failed to include background that mentioned Toledo.

Newspapers such as the Guardian, the London Evening Standard, the Independent, the Express, the Telegraph, the Economist, the Financial Times, and the Daily Mail did not include the Toledo museum’s role in their reviews of the exhibit.

A number of well-known British media experts, including Lord Conrad Black and Sir Harold Evans, have speculated that a certain degree of cultural ignorance toward noncoastal U.S. cities might explain the snub.

David Mould, Ohio University E.W. Scripps School of Journalism professor emeritus, is a native of England who has lived half of his 63 years in the United States and half in the United Kingdom. He said it is not uncommon for Britons to have a relatively narrow perception of America.

“I think there is a view in Britain, and I think it is largely a media view, and I would probably blame television more than newspapers, which thinks of the United States in terms of New York, Washington D.C., and then California,” he said. “People of course are aware that there’s quite a bit between the two coasts, but they don’t see too much about it; they don’t know too much about it, and I think the notion there is that the rest of the country will follow either the political lead in Washington, or the business lead from New York, or the cultural lead from Los Angeles.”

Omission of the Toledo Museum of Art’s role doesn’t constitute snobbery, but it is flawed journalism, said Peter Preston, a retired London journalist who was editor of the Guardian for 20 years and who still writes about the media in Britain.

“Is it good or civil practice? Not really, whether the exhibits come from the Frick, the Prada, or Toledo,” he said. “Indeed, crediting Toledo would be more interesting, especially for art lovers thinking of visiting Ohio.”

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