Larry and Donna James Promise 42 Works to Columbus Museum of Art

Exhibition showcasing the gift, which features many Black artists, will open March 4.

Suzanne Goldsmith
Columbus Monthly
"Madonna," Elizabeth Catlett's 1983 piece

Columbus business leaders and philanthropists Larry and Donna James have long planned to donate some of their extensive art collection to the Columbus Museum of Art. But news that their good friend Nannette Maciejunes will retire at the end of the year after two decades as the museum’s director hastened their plans. 

“We go way back to my years on the [museum] board and even earlier,” Larry James says. “There’s no better way to pay tribute to Nannette than with this gift.” 

“The museum is honored whenever a collector entrusts us with their art,” says Maciejunes. “But for them to be motivated to do it while I’m here is one of the greatest honors I’ve ever had.” 

The gift includes 42 works by 24 primarily Black artists, ranging from local giants Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson and Smoky Brown to Elizabeth Catlett (above: “Madonna,” 1983) and William S. Carter. The works, which will come to the museum as a bequest, are currently on loan for an exhibition opening March 4, titledForward Together: Promised Gifts from the Collection of Donna and Larry James, after a lithograph by Jacob Lawrence. 

More:ACE Gallery Continues to Inspire Columbus Black Artists Decades After its Closing

Maciejunes is particularly tickled that the gift includes 17 works by artists not yet represented in the museum’s collection. “This is powerful,” Maciejunes says. 

While Larry James likes to chuckle about how little he knew about art when he began collecting, Maciejunes calls him a catalyst for increased attention to Columbus’ Black artists. The 2018 exhibition, I, Too, Sing America, celebrating Columbus’ version of the Harlem Renaissance, “would never have happened without Larry,” she says. “Every director I know has a kitchen cabinet, and he’s certainly been in mine.”  

This story is from the March 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.