Donors threaten to withdraw millions from East Hampton Sculpture Garden

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The mysterious dismissal of a longtime art director from East Hampton has caused longtime donors to a sculpture garden to reconsider their significant contributions.

The sudden dismissal of Matko Tomicic, executive director of the Longhouse Reserve, coupled with a reshuffle of its board of directors, shocked donors just months after the death of the association’s founder, Jack Lenor Larsen.

“They’re withdrawing their funds,” said Hamptons artist and donor Jane Johnson, who contributes to the park through a family foundation. “People call their lawyers and change their wills until this council resigns. “

Another philanthropist, who has donated to LongHouse for a decade, demands answers.

“A number of donors are concerned and appalled by the direction of this council,” said Susie Gelman. “There seems to be a real lack of transparency.

The controversy became public last month after the nonprofit board that runs LongHouse abruptly fired Tomicic, who had overseen the park as executive director for nearly 26 years, donors told The Post .

The Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads sculpture by Ai Weiwei at the LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton.
Newsday via Getty Images

Tomicic had worked closely with Larsen, a renowned textile designer who created LongHouse on his lush 16-acre Hamptons property, opening it to the public in 1992. The setting is inspired by a 7th-century Japanese Shinto shrine and includes sculptures by artists such as Willem de Kooning, Yoko Ono and glass artist Dale Chihuly.

Larsen, whose textiles are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, died in December. He was 93 years old.

Matko Tomicic attends the LongHouse Reserve - Famous Brooklyn Annual Benefit at LongHouse Reserve on July 21, 2018 in East Hampton, New York.
Long-time donors wonder why Matko Tomicic was fired after nearly 26 years as executive director of Longhouse Reserve.
Patrick McMullan / PMC

“I don’t know why he was summarily fired,” said Anne Roos, a longtime donor who lives between homes in Montauk and Tennessee. Roos told the Post that she is also considering ending her support for the organization.

More than 85% of the $ 1.9 million nonprofit’s total revenue came from contributions and grants in 2019, according to LongHouse’s latest federal tax return.

Longhouse Reserve Founder Jack Lenor Larsen
Longhouse Reserve founder Jack Lenor Larsen passed away at the age of 93 in 2020.
Getty Images

Larsen initially left some $ 6 million in a trust to continue funding LongHouse after his death, donors have said.

The trust was then changed in the months leading up to his death, dividing the funds between the nonprofit and its 30-plus partner, Peter Olsen, a member of the LongHouse board, said the donors to The Post.

Former New York Botanical Garden President and CEO Carrie Rebora Barratt
Former New York Botanical Garden president Carrie Rebora Barratt replaced Matko Tomicic after his unexpected ouster.
Getty Images

Longhouse and Olsen “have always been” the beneficiaries of Larsen’s estate, a board spokesperson told The Post, adding: “Towards the end of his life, Jack made sure that Peter would be taken. in charge.”

Tomicic could not be reached for comment on Friday, but told the Sag Harbor Express last week that the deal he signed with the board of directors prevented him from speaking publicly about his dismissal.

Tomicic and the board “agreed to go their separate ways” last month following a “strategic planning process” that began before Larsen’s death, board co-chairs Nina said. Gillman and Dianne Benson.

The LongHouse Board of Directors recently appointed Carrie Rebora Barratt as Interim Director. Rebora Barratt was named the first female president and CEO of the New York Botanical Garden in 2018, but stepped down last year.

At least one board member has left LongHouse following the controversy. Alex Feleppa, the chair of the LongHouse garden committee, left after Tomicic was sacked.

“There is a small group that is close to our former manager and we are trying to address their concerns,” the LongHouse board said in a statement. “Unfortunately, sometimes the loudest voices are negative. We also heard from many members of our community positively expressing their continued support for LongHouse. “


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