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Supporters of the Detroit Institute of Arts have offered to donate $330 million to help pay a portion of the city’s bankruptcy debt and save the museum’s finest works from being sold at auction. The donors would like the funds to go to retirees, whose pensions may be cut by as much as $3.5 billion. In exchange, the Detroit Institute’s collection would be protected in any bankruptcy settlement. A statement e-mailed to the U.S. District Court in Detroit said, “All recognize that if these two goals can be accomplished, a third absolutely critical goal of facilitating the revitalization of the city in the aftermath of the bankruptcy will be greatly advanced.”

Detroit filed for bankruptcy in July 2013 and the city is currently over $18 billion in debt. Following the filing, Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s emergency manager, asked Christie’s to appraise the 2,781 city-owned works housed in the Detroit Institute of Arts. The auction house estimated the works to be worth anywhere from $452 million to $886 million.

The Institute has opposed any sale, stating that its art is held in a charitable trust and cannot be part of any auction to help pay Detroit’s substantial debts.

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The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation has announced that it will donate its remarkable Harry Shunk and Shunk-Kender Photography Collection to five major institutions -- the Getty Research Institute, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Centre Pompidou, and the Tate. The collection includes approximately 200,000 black-and-white prints, color prints, negatives, contact sheets, color transparencies, and slides.

The Foundation’s donation is unique in that it will establish a consortium among the institutions that will both receive and share the materials. The collection of photographic material was shot by the late Harry Shunk and Janos Kender, and dates from approximately 1958 to 1973. Many of the images capture notable artists such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Robert Rauschenberg, Joan Miro, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Man Ray, Barnett Newman, and Alexander Calder.

The photographs were acquired by the Foundation between 2008 and 2012, several years after Shunk’s death. The Foundation went on to preserve, catalogue and digitize the works, eventually creating a free online archive.

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The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. announced that Oprah Winfrey will donate $12 million to support the capital campaign of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. Winfrey donated $1 million in 2007, bringing her total contribution to the project to $13 million. She has been a member of the museum’s advisory council since 2004. To thank her for her generosity, the Smithsonian will name the museum’s 350-seat theater the Oprah Winfrey Theater.

The museum, which is currently under construction, is expected to cost $500 million by the time it reaches completion. Congressional funding provided half of the capital and the rest is being raised by the museum. The museum is situated on 5 acres of land and sits next to the Washington Monument. It will be the 19th Smithsonian museum.

Wayne Clough, the Smithsonian Secretary, said, “At its heart, the National Museum of African History and Culture is a showcase for a richer, fuller picture of the American experience. The Oprah Winfrey Theater will bring untold stories alive through films, performances, artistic expression and public dialogue.”

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is slated to open in late 2015.

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In an effort to curb the massive debts accrued by the American Folk Art Museum’s former chairman, Ralph Esmerian, the institution has decided to sell over 200 works from its collection at an auction at Sotheby’s. Esmerian, the former owner of the jewelry company Fred Leighton, is currently serving a six-year jail sentence for wire fraud and other charges.

In 2005, Esmerian promised to donate 263 works from his illustrious collection to the Folk Art Museum. However, he used some of those same works as collateral to secure multi-million-dollar loans with Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Late last month, Manhattan’s U.S. Bankruptcy Court arranged a settlement with the museum allowing the Folk Art Museum to keep 53 of the promised works as long as they enhance the institution’s collection and aid its educational mission. The remaining works, which include paintings, sculptures, scrimshaw, and needleworks, will be sold at Sotheby’s.

The trustee responsible for liquidating Esmerian’s estate has decided to sell the remainder of the collection through Sotheby’s, much to Christie’s dismay. Christie’s filed an objection to the settlement on March 15, 2013 claiming that Sotheby’s intimidated the trustee into choosing them to host the important auction.

The Esmerian sale will be held in December 2013 or January 2014 and the profits will go towards repaying the creditors the former chairman defrauded.    

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Wednesday, 10 April 2013 17:49

The Met Receives Monumental Gift Worth $1 Billion

Officials at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York have announced that philanthropist and cosmetics mogul Leonard Lauder will donate $1 billion worth of art to the museum. The gift includes 78 Cubist paintings, drawings, and sculptures and will significantly improve the Met’s 20th century holdings. The Leonard A. Lauder Collection includes 33 works by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), 17 by Georges Braque (1882-1963), 14 by Juan Gris (1887-1927), and 14 by Fernand Léger (1881-1955); for a private Cubist collection it is unmatched in its quality and breadth.

Highlights from the Lauder Collection include Picasso’s landscape The Oil Mill (1909), which was one of the first Cubist images to be reproduced in Italy; Braque’s Fruit Dish and Glass (1912), the first Cubist paper collage ever created; and Picasso’s Head of a Woman (1909), which is considered the first Cubist sculpture. Together, these works tell the story of a movement that transformed the landscape of modern art. Cubism departed from the traditional interpretations of art, challenged conventional perceptions of space, time, and perspective, and paved the way for abstraction, a concept that dominated the art world for much of the 20th century.

Lauder acquired his first Cubist works in 1976 and has maintained his remarkable dedication to collecting for nearly 40 years. He continues to collect and is committed to looking for new opportunities to add to his gift to the Met. In coordination with Lauder’s remarkable gift, the Met is establishing a new research center for modern art. The center is supported by a $22 million endowment that Lauder helped spearhead. Grants for the center came from various trustees and supporters of the Met, including Lauder.

The Lauder Collection will be exhibited for the first time at this Met during the fall of 2014.

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A group of leading artists, artist estates, collectors, and dealer has donated 25 works of art to benefit the Whitney Museum of American Art’s new Renzo Piano-designed building in downtown Manhattan. The works, which are said to be worth upward of $8 million, will be put up for auction at Sotheby’s New York from May 14-15, 2013.

All of the artists involved in the multifaceted gift have strong ties to the Whitney and are represented in the museum’s stellar permanent collection. The most valuable work that will be up for auction in May is Jasper Johns’ (b. 1930) oil on canvas painting Untitled (2012), which is estimated to sell for $1.5 million to $2 million. Johns has had five solo shows at the Whitney and has participated in over 37 group exhibitions; the donation came directly from the artist. Other highlights from the sale include a Jeff Koons (b. 1955) silkscreen on stainless steel, a Cy Twombly (1928-2011) work on paper, a recent nude by John Currin (b. 1962), and other works by John Baldessari (b. 1931), Andy Warhol (1928-1987), and Ed Ruscha (b. 1937).    

All of the profits from the sale will directly benefit the Whitney’s new building, which is expected to open in the High Line District in 2015.

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The international financial services group, Credit Suisse, has decided to donate a portrait of Alexander Hamilton by Revolution-era painter, John Trumbull (1756-1843), to not one, but two museums. The painting has been on loan to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas since it opened to the public in 2011.

Credit Suisse decided that giving the portrait to Crystal Bridges and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, two well-known institutions, would maximize the public’s enjoyment of the work by expanding its audience. The shared ownership will see that the portrait remains in Arkansas until the summer, when it will travel to the Met for a year. The painting will return to Crystal Bridges in 2014 for another year. Eventually the painting will be on view at each museum for two-year stretches.

Credit Suisse acquired the striking full-length portrait in 2000 when it absorbed the New York-based investment bank Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. Richard Jenrette, one of the bank’s founding partners, had assembled a remarkable art collection for the company that became part of Credit Suisse’s acquisition.  

The New York Chamber of Commerce commissioned Trumbull to paint the Hamilton portrait in 1791 while he was serving as President Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury.

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Great and Mighty Things: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection presents over 200 objects from one of the country’s most remarkable collections of works by American self-taught artists. On view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through June 9, 2013, Great and Mighty Things includes drawings, paintings, sculptures, and other objects by 27 artists who created their oeuvres outside of the mainstream modern and contemporary art worlds.

Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz, who have spent over 30 years assembling their collection, will donate the works in the exhibition to the museum. The exhibition and gift include works by prominent outsider artists such as Martín Ramírez (1895-1963), Howard Finster (1916-2001), Purvis Young (1943-2010), and Bill Traylor (1854-1949) and spans from the 1930s to 2010. The Bonovitz’s generous donation will greatly enhance the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collection as well as help to establish the institution as one of the primary centers for the study of American outsider art.

Outsider Art, which is known for its raw and out-of-the-ordinary beauty, has become a global phenomenon in the 20th and 21st centuries. Once considered the art of the mentally insane, Outsider Art now holds a prominent place next to modern and contemporary art while maintaining its individual identity.

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The fashion company DKNY will donate $25,000 to a YMCA on behalf of photographer Brandon Stanton after using his works without permission. Stanton, who lives in New York and runs a popular photo blog titled Humans of New York, was approached by DKNY a few months earlier when the company hoped to buy 300 of Stanton’s photographs for a worldwide storefront display. The photographer found their $15,000 offer too low and Stanton and DKNY were unable to reach a monetary agreement.

On Monday, February 25, 2013 a fan of Stanton’s blog sent him a picture of a DKNY storefront in Bangkok, which was full of his photographs. Rather than seeking legal action against DKNY for using his work without permission and compensation, Stanton asked his Facebook fans to share the story while urging the company to donate $100,000 on his behalf to a YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

After 28,907 people shared Stanton’s story, DKNY issued an apology and vowed to donate $25,000 in Stanton’s name to the YMCA of his choice. The company claimed that the use of Stanton’s work was a mistake and that the Bangkok outpost accidently used an internal mock up as a storefront display. The mock up, which included Stanton’s images, was meant to show the direction of the company’s spring visual program.

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When Henry Kravis, the co-chairman of the global investment firm KKR & Co., and prominent art collector Donald L. Bryant Jr. purchased a triptych by Jasper Johns (b. 1930) in 2008, the duo agreed to take turns exhibiting the works in their homes before eventually donating them to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In a lawsuit recently filed by Kravis and his wife, Marie-Josée, the couple claims that Bryant violated their agreement when he refused to hand the works over to them on January 14, 2013. The Kravises stated that Bryant is essentially holding the works hostage until their agreement is amended, nixing the pledge to donate the paintings.     

Considered one of the most important living American artists, Johns completed the three works titled Tantric Detail I, Tantric Detail II, and Tantric Detail III in 1980 and 1981. A powerful presence in the contemporary art market, Johns’ triptych is said to be worth between $15 million and $25 million. MoMA announced the Johns acquisition in a 2008 press release saying that the works were a “promised gift” from Bryant, who was one of the museum’s trustees at the time, Marie-Josée, the president of MoMA’s board of trustees, and her husband, Henry.

In their lawsuit, the Kravises ask that Bryant relinquish the works to them so that they can fulfill their vow to donate the paintings to MoMA.  

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