Harlem’s 92-year-old Metropolitan Museum of Art has received a $125 million gift, the largest pledge in its history.
Lee Auchincloss, founder of the exclusive Dillon Read law firm in Manhattan, is transferring his private art collection to the museum. Some 80 works of art are set to go on view in 2019 for an inaugural exhibit that the Met was already planning.
The museum posted a video on Thursday that shows the effects that the gift will have on the institution as a whole. President Lee Auchincloss said the gift will allow the museum to “transform” for years to come.
The Auchincloss collection includes prints by German Impressionist Gottfried Lindauer, watercolors by Florence Griswold, works by Lucian Freud and Edgar Degas and sculptures by Hans Hoffman, Augustus Saint-Gaudens and James McNeill Whistler.
After Lee Auchincloss launched his first company, which launched in the late 1880s, he built a namesake firm that rose to one of the most exclusive in the country. His net worth has been estimated at about $1.7bn.
Caitlin Dickson, the museum’s deputy director and chief curator, said the retrospective will be significant. “It will affect the way that the museum gathers and presents art and will help define the way the museum is perceived and the way that our visitors will experience the institution in the years to come,” she said.
The gift comes at a time when donations to museums are on the rise and presidential candidates are soliciting and financing museum projects in their bids for the White House.
Dickson said the transfer of the collection was a perfect fit.
“It really shows that our mission and our purpose is to serve all of the public,” she said. “We are open to members of the community, we are open to people who have not visited us and we are celebrating that diversity with this gift.”
Lee Auchincloss was a benefactor for a variety of causes during his lifetime, including Jewish charities and a scholarship at a boarding school in Connecticut where the family lived for many years.
The Auchincloss collection had belonged to his brother, Cyrus, a 19th-century English businessman. Lee Auchincloss said he inherited the collection from his brother in 1967.