the emotion in the image stirs him and draws him in.
So Tony Moravec keeps a framed copy of an original 18th- century Domenico Tiepolo scene close to him. The drawing, “Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane,” hangs three feet from his bed at his Grandview Lake home in Columbus.
The artwork’s message often frames his thoughts as he ends one day and begins another. In the scene, Jesus, shown with hands folded high toward heaven, looks pleadingly, agonizingly skyward.
“It’s the one (work) that’s most compelling to me,” Moravec said, adding that it helps him pray. “Each day, it’s a great one to be looking at. It’s inspiring to me.
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“Gratefulness is a key when I see it. I know that I have been blessed with abundance.”
And in typical fashion for Moravec, the business executive who invested significantly to restore Columbus’ historic Zaharakos restaurant and more recently to renovate the historic former city Pump House into the Upland Columbus Pump House restaurant is sharing his abundance again.
This time, it surfaces in the form of his highly valued art collection — one of the world’s largest consisting of works by Domenico Tiepolo.
The exhibit, “Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo: Master Drawings from the Anthony J. Moravec Collection,” will be displayed Oct. 1 through Feb. 5 at the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University in Bloomington, 2017. The father and son are widely considered two of the most notable Italian draftsmen of their era.
Among other works, the exhibition will feature 24 Old Master drawings, including 12 works from Domenico Tiepolo’s New Testament cycle, part of a scattered cycle of 320 drawings by Tiepolo. That cycle is regarded as the most exhaustive and sustained visual representation of the New Testament by any artist in history.
The 65-year-old Moravec is former chairman, and still a current member, of the IU museum’s national advisory board. In 2010, Moravec donated his personal collection of the Tiepolos’ old master drawings and a series of scenes from the New Testament to the IU museum, where the original works always were kept. The gift quickly made the facility one of the largest repositories of such works in the world.
“I feel compelled to give because I have had much given to me,” Moravec said. “And that relates to my faith and the fact that the good Lord is going to take care of me whether in good times or bad times.”
Moravec built his wealth and influence as co-founder of Applied Laboratories Inc. and president of Blairex Laboratories Inc. in Columbus. He launched Applied Laboratories Inc. with $2,500 after growing up in a family of 10 children. For years, corporate life gave him a laser focus.
In 2005, friend Heidi Gealt, now IU museum director emeritus, interested Moravec, who had no formal art training, in the Tiepolos, especially Domenico. Gealt also is co-author with the late George Knox of the exhaustive coffee table volume, “Domenico Tiepolo: A New Testament,” a Bible of sorts on the artist.
Knox also shaped Moravec’s interest.
“I loved how he (Domenico) made his lines,” Moravec said in the duo’s book. “And I really liked how he could draw almost anything.”
At the time that the local entrepreneur began collecting, his business success and interest in IU landed him a seat on the museum’s national advisory board. He took the volunteer post so seriously that he began visiting other art museums — the Art Institute of Chicago, The Louvre, and museums in Italy.
He overlaid one of his successful business principles into his new art life: Once you find an opportunity, move quickly to embrace and act on it.
“I have been called obsessive by some people in my past,” he said with a laugh, knowing that such intensity has stretched from finding antique soda fountains to rare musical instruments for Zaharakos. “I must say it serves me far better in business and in collecting than it does in my personal life.”
That obsessiveness also gave him his newfound art life.
“Quite frankly, I couldn’t afford to do this 15 or 20 years ago,” he said, mentioning that he paid six figures for his first Domenico Tiepolo piece. “Only through the success of my business have I had the luxury of exploring these other opportunities.
“And that always has been with the help of others. I sure as heck have never done any of this by myself.”
That includes the collecting, where Gealt and Knox assisted him.
“With Tony, when he gets a passion for something, he jumps in with both feet,” Gealt said. “It’s wonderful to watch.
“One thing about him is that he is a very fast learner. With collectors, you will hear people talk about the importance of people having a good eye. And Tony has that,” she said.
On a trip to Venice, Italy, several years ago with Moravec, Gealt found herself sitting outside with him one day. It so happened that they relaxed a good distance from an art dealer’s shop.
But even from that distant perspective, Moravec’s face lit up when he announced that he spotted a Domenico Tiepolo work through the shop window.
Gealt was skeptical.
“But it turned out he was absolutely right. He has worked enough to recognize the characteristic and artistic ‘handwriting.’ He really has gotten into it,” she said.
Gealt also has been impressed that Moravec never has wanted to buy works for mere prestige or sheer monetary value. And she calls his donation of the Tiepolo collection to the museum one of the highlights of her lengthy art career.
Moravec feels that faith-fueled art matters for basic reasons.
“It’s inspiring,” he said. “And it reflects a fundamental belief that there’s a power higher than ourselves and one that significantly impacts our life as a guiding source for the betterment of mankind.”
He acknowledged that he holds his valuables loosely. It helps that he made significant lifestyle changes two years ago — shortening his work days by several hours so he can make more time for interests such as family and art.
“We all are merely caretakers here in this life,” he said. “So I know it’s more important to enjoy the (collecting) process rather than just the objects themselves.”
He once wanted to bid on prized works auctioned at Christie’s in Paris. Only problem was, he was on an Alaskan cruise with his family. On his cell phone aboard the liner, he struggled to get a clear signal.
He finally found the best connection in the restroom, where he ended up speaking to someone “halfway around the world” to land three Tiepolo drawings.
“It was just a hoot,” he said.
What: The works-on-paper exhibit, “Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo: Master Drawings from the Anthony J. Moravec Collection.” The works are part of Moravec’s major gift to the museum.
The father and son are widely considered two of the most notable Italian draftsmen of their era.
When: Oct. 1 through Feb. 5, 2017. A free, opening reception is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Sept. 30.
Where: Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University, 1133 E. 7th St. in Bloomington.
Admission: Free, but visitors may make donations.
Information: 812-855-5445 or email@example.com.