During the course of writing a long magazine story, a writer accumulates lots of good info and detail that he can’t use. So over the course of the next week or so MAN will be the beneficiary of what I found while working on the Lauder/Adele/Neue Galerie story.
One of the things I explored in reporting the piece was the persistent art world buzz/unsubstantiated-cocktail-party-chatter that Ronald Lauder planned to some day fold the Neue Galerie into MoMA. Not only could I not find anything to support the rumors, but everything I heard, including discussion of how Lauder would provide for the Neue Galerie’s long-term (read: independent) future, indicated the place would be around for a while. The last line of the story makes clear Lauder’s ambitions for the place. He’s also considered a Neue Galerie Downtown.
During our second (I think) conversation Lauder told me that he was personally endowing the museum.
“If that was the request [the heirs] made of Lauder, it was wise,” said Anne Poulet, the director of The Frick Collection, a museum a few blocks from the Neue Galerie on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “To have these institutions exist in perpetuity and be healthy, they really need to have a good solid foundation in an endowment.”
Since the early days of the Neue Galerie, Lauder has held the Frick as one of the models for his museum. Like the Neue, the Frick was founded by a single wealthy donor: Henry Clay Frick. In 1919 Frick endowed his museum with $15 million, $185 million in today’s money. Frick also enlisted a dream team of industrialists to oversee his museum’s endowment, including John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Mellon, and Henry O. Havemeyer. Today that endowment is worth $240 million and last year it provided for half of the Frick’s operating budget.
Given Lauder’s ties to the family business (Estee Lauder cosmetics), asset diversification will be especially important to the future of the Neue Galerie. Many of the late Estee Lauder’s and Ronald Lauder’s gifts and loans to Neue Galerie have been in Estee Lauder stock, but Ronald Lauder told me that his museum’s endowment will not be dependent on a single company. Houston’s Menil Foundation has benefitted from this kind of planning. The Menil was created and eventually endowed by Dominique de Menil, whose family fortune also came almost entirely from one company: oil services giant Schlumberger. By the time de Menil died in 1999, her estate’s contribution to the Menil’s endowment was $90 million, with less than $4.5 million in Schlumberger stock.
Lauder won’t specifically say that hes selling Estee Lauder stock with Neue Galerie’s future in mind. “It’s totally secure,” he says.
Wondering about the endowment of your favorite museum? Here are a few numbers, pretty much randomly selected and ~-hedged because the data I have on file may be a year or so old. Chances are that I’ll update this as the day goes on and as my mind wanders from the work I should be doing, so check back later:
- Walker Art Center: ~$195 million
- Indianapolis Museum of Art: ~$350 million (And you wondered why Max Anderson went to Indy…)
- Modern Art Museum Fort Worth: ~$25 million
- Baltimore Museum of Art: ~$65 million
- SFMOMA: ~$170 million
- Metropolitan Museum of Art: $2.2 billion (Met-only, there are various other funds on which the museum draws)
- My educated guess as to the top six museum endowments, in no particular order (a guess because some museums haven’t fully folded recent gifts into their endowments, and one of these is a trust that operates a museum): Cleveland, Getty, MFA Houston, the Met, NGA, MoMA. UPDATE: I was five for six (more or less). I’ll post the top ten later today.