He was known in West Hollywood as Richie Silverman, one of two dozen volunteers at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station. Silverman, who died Tuesday at the age of 87, had worked at the front desk of the station since 2001, putting in over 3,600 hours. He worked the late-night shift (10 p.m. to 2 a.m.) on Saturdays.
However, in his home town of Toledo, Ohio, and in international art circles, Silverman was better known as a collector and appraiser of Asian art whose donations to the Toledo Museum of Art “created one of the largest public art collections of those pieces anywhere,” says an obituary published in the Toledo Blade.
Silverman was to have been honored by the Japanese government next month with the Order of the Rising Sun, a national decoration awarded for the promotion of Japanese culture.
The Blade reported that Silverman died at Cedars-Sinai of a sepsis infection related to his bout with pneumonia.
Silverman, a graduate of Brandeis University, also studied at the University of Michigan and the University of Toledo and had lived in Bangkok and Tokyo.
“Richard’s first foray to the Far East was as a soldier in 1956,” says a story about him published by the Toledo Museum of Art. “He became fascinated with the region’s customs and art, and though he returned to Toledo after his stint in the military, his love for Asia led to an eventual 15-year stay in Tokyo.”
While in Japan, Silverman developed a particular fascination with netsuke, small ornaments made of ivory or wood that are worn as a toggle attached to a traditional Japanese kimono. Silverman collected netsuke for more than 40 years. In 2013, the Toledo Museum of Art created a new gallery to house the 500 pieces that he had donated.
Silverman traveled and lived in Asia in the 1960s and 1970s and was a prominent Asian art consultant. He had lived in West Hollywood for decades and was instrumental in the creation of the netsuke collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Funeral and memorial arrangements for Silverman have yet to be announced.