David Geffen Donates $100 Million to the Museum of Modern Art

David Geffen.

Image: David Geffen | Patrick McMullan | New York Times

Billionaire and philanthropist David Geffen, considered one of the world’s top art collectors, has made a generous gift of $100 million to New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The funds will go to its newest expansion project, and so far Geffen’s donation is the largest in the museum’s campaign to raise money for its $440 million project. Three floors of its new galleries will be called the Geffen Wing in honor of his donation.

“These are the kinds of gifts you only dream about,” said Glenn D. Lowry, director of MOMA.

Geffen’s gift will be paid for over time, but it will happen quickly, the museum said. Renovations and expansions to the museum, which includes a gray-area demolition of the American Folk Art Museum, is expected to be completed by 2019 or 2020.

Geffen’s art collection is itself a true piece of art: it has an estimated value of $2 billion, a significant part of his $6.8 billion net worth. A longtime admirer of the museum, Geffen said, “When I worked in the mailroom at the William Morris agency I used to brown bag it at the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art. It’s where I developed my interest in post-World War II art.” Additionally, he has long enjoyed other kinds of art, having made his wealth through pop music, art, and movies.

He has donated many artworks to MOMA over the years and lending pieces from his own collections for important museum exhibitions. A few months ago, Geffen sold two artworks, one Pollock and one de Kooning, to Ken Griffin, a hedge fund manager, for $500 million, in one of the largest art deals ever. Last year, he gave $100 million to the Lincoln Center, which then named its largest concert hall after him.

In 2002, Geffen donated a whopping $200 million to the UCLA School of Medicine, now named the David Geffen School of Medicine, which was the largest donation ever made to a medical school.

“I intend to give away as much of my money as possible whim I’m alive to things that I think are valuable,” said Geffen, who has no dependents. “So far, it’s a considerable amount of money.”

So what happens to his expansive art collection? It will ultimately go to his own foundation to be given to other institutions or sold, and the proceeds would go to culture, medicine, or education causes.

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