Milwaukee man makes unique donation to the Art Museum

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MILWAUKEE -- They have no formal training or experience, but their work is being showcased at the Milwaukee Art Museum. A man spent decades capturing the work of "accidental geniuses," just to give it all away!

Tony Petullo's passion has always been art, and he's been especially attracted to work created by self-taught artists. "I began to see the true genius of so many of these artists, and I was hooked. They didn't mimic other artists. They didn't want to learn. They didn't copy from any other artist. They are really very individualistic, and very inventive," Petullo said.

In the early 1990s, the Milwaukee businessman began feverishly collecting this style of art, knowing from the beginning he wasn't going to keep it for himself. "Tony has had the joy of collecting this work over the decades, and now he gets the joy of seeing the reactions of thousands of visitors to the Milwaukee Art Museum experiencing this work," Daniel Keegan with the Milwaukee Art Museum said.

The Milwaukee Art Museum is featuring Petullo's generous gift in the exhibition called "Accidental Genius." Petullo donated a total of 312 pieces to the museum, and 200 of those are on display in the exhibit representing accidental geniuses from around the world.

Some of these pieces are over 100 years old, and represent people of all walks of life - from former slaves to Holocaust survivors. "A lot of it was collected one at a time because they are very rare. It's an expression of their emotions. Some were actually illiterate and this was their means of communication, but it's reality," Petullo said.

"Accidental Genius" opens at the Milwaukee Art Museum Friday, and will be on display for 10 weeks.