Richie Silverman, a renowned Asian art collector with one of the largest private collections of netsuke outside of Japan, died on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, in West Hollywood, California, after a brief illness. He was 87.
Richie never married, but lived life with his heart on his sleeve. He passionately loved the Scott Bulldogs, Brandeis, The Toledo Museum of Art, the Ohio State Marching Band, everything Japanese, especially his netsuke, peanut butter cookies, skim milk, and his many cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.
Richie was born in Toledo on May 1, 1932. His grandfather, Isidor, was one of the founders of Kobacker furniture store, and his father, Milton, was President. He graduated from Scott High School. He then attended Brandeis University where he graduated with a degree in English. He became a trustee of Brandeis in 1984 and was active in the L.A. alumni chapter. He attended the University of Michigan Law School before being drafted into the Army.
Richie served in the U.S. Army in Seoul, Korea for sixteen months in the late 1950s. He traveled extensively throughout Asia but was captivated by Thailand and Japan. In the early 1960s, he joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Burma. In 1962, he moved to Bangkok and became a Director General of the Ministry of Education for teaching English. He began collecting Asian art while living in Bangkok.
In November 1964, Richie moved to Tokyo for what he thought would be two years. He lived there for the next fifteen years, teaching English to law students at Aoyama Gakuin University. He taught 75 days a year at the university so he had 290 days to travel and shop for art. Within three years, his walls were completely filled with oil paintings, wood blocks, scrolls and screens.
In 1968, running out of space to display his beloved art, he began collecting netsuke, which are miniature carvings originally used as toggles to secure pouches to a kimono. Netsuke became the great passion of his life.
Richie wrote and lectured about netsuke worldwide since the 1970s. He was an Asian art consultant for Sotheby's, Christie's, and Bonham & Butterfields auction houses. A collection of his netsuke are shown in one of the Museum's Asian Art Galleries. Richie's gift of 226 ceramic netsuke to the Toledo Museum of Art constitutes perhaps the largest public collection of these miniature clay sculptures in the world. He was a member of the Museum's Council of Collections, which advises the Museum on new acquisitions.
At his home in California, Richie became a member of the Far Eastern Art Council at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1984. In 1993, he joined LACMA's Executive Board. He served on the board of directors for the International Society of Appraisers from 1986-1994, and served nine years as chair for the City of West Hollywood Fine Arts Commission.
One of the happiest days of his life was when he recently learned that the nation of Japan was bestowing on him the Order of the Rising Sun for his lifelong effort to promote Japanese culture. While he died before the ceremony conferring the award, it brought him great joy to know of the recognition.
Richie loved his nephews, nieces and cousins—Peter (Marcia), Beth (Tom), Ross (Jody), Judd (Lisa), and Joel Silverman and Bobby Rand—and all their children. They are left with fond memories of his laughter, stories, love, and generosity.
Funeral services will be Friday, November 29, at Shomer Emunim at 10:00 a.m. followed by a graveside ceremony at Woodlawn. In lieu of flowers, please consider contributions to the Toledo Museum of Art, Brandeis, Shomer Emunim, or a charity of the donor's choice.
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Temple Shomer Emunim
6453 W. Sylvania Ave., Sylvania OH 43560
Charity of donors choice
Toledo Museum of Art
2445 Monroe Street, Toledo OH 43620