The thing is, we need the Judd Foundation.
Donald Judd is one of the three most important American artists of the last 50 years and one of the most important critics, too. (Judd’s dismissal of Anne Truitt, for example, is part of the reason she has never received her due.) Still:
- There is no Judd biography. By comparison: There are lots of Warhol and Pollock bios;
- Major American museums such as the National Gallery of Art, SFMOMA, MAMFW and LACMA have enormous gaps in their Judd collections; and
- Judd’s papers and facilities in Marfa and New York have been only lightly combed by scholars, historians and critics.
Barring the unexpected donation of Judd’s papers to some cash-rich institution such as the University of Texas, the art world needs a healthy, functional, responsible Judd Foundation to catalogue and conserve Judd’s papers. And given Judd’s will, who but the Judd Foundation can preserve and keep open Judd sites in Marfa (the Judd Foundation oversees all the Judd sites in Marfa except for the Chinati Foundation sites) and New York, and ensure Judd’s legacy by smartly placing work in important collections?
Of course this all takes money. Somehow, the Judd Foundation has very little of it. At the end of FY 2004 the Foundation had an estimated $200 million in art assets, but only $500,000 in cash. The Foundation’s board members have not been active donors: According to the Foundation’s tax filings, none of them gave money between FYs 2002-04 and the foundation has brought little in contributions from sources outside the Judd estate (such as private individuals or foundations) in those years.
Furthermore, trustees in a position to provide leadership donations seem to have shied away from making contributions to the Judd Foundation. Louisa Sarofim, a new Judd board member, is president of Houston’s Brown Foundation. Brown gives about a quarter of its annual grants to arts organizations. In its most recent fiscal year, which ended on June 30, 2005, Brown gave $49K to Ballroom Marfa, $302K to Chinati… and only $1K to Judd. (Brown’s annual report says that it “does not expect to support” private foundations; Judd is a private foundation. However so is the Menil, and Brown has supported Menil quite substantially.)
Of course, during that fiscal year the Judd Foundation was about to hire an executive director. On Jan. 23, Barbara Hunt McLanahan, formerly director of Artist’s Space, started at Judd.
When it was time to make a decision about how to bring in some money, Hunt McLanahan saw that foundation was art-rich, endowment-poor, operating-cash-poor, and had no recent history of fundraising success. Hunt McLanahan decided that the Foundation needed an endowment — and that it had to raise it quickly.
So the foundation decided to sell 35 Judd sculptures at Christie’s in May.
“In all of the discussions we had there were no other suggestions as to how we might make a $20M endowment,” Hunt McLanahan told me. “I think people do enjoy being critical but if other people had other solutions…”