Among the hundreds of gifts that New York mayor Bill de Blasio and his family received during his first year in office—which were disclosed by DNAinfo through the Freedom of Information Act—were two separate offerings from Dr. Arnold L. Lehman, who recently resigned his post as the director of the Brooklyn Museum, a job he held for 17 years. (He is now a senior adviser at Phillips auction house.) Lehman’s first gift, on February 4, 2014, was the catalog for an exhibition at the museum, “Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties,” a show that included Andy Warhol’s Birmingham Race Riot (1964) and a video of Nina Simone singing “Mississippi Goddam.”
The second gift, from July 3, 2014, is a basket from Brooklyn Larder, a high-end deli on Flatbush Avenue nearby the museum. It included the following: “Early bird granola, spiced walnuts, peanut brittle, salt water taffy, Mast Brothers dark chocolate, fig ricotta caramels, sea salt caramels, watermelon candies, McClure’s pickles, A. Bauer’s mustard, and Empire Classic mayonnaise.”
Thelma Golden, the director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, gave de Blasio the book Harlem: A Century in Images, on October 3, 2014. Elizabeth A. Sackler, the chair of the Brooklyn Museum’s board of trustees and the founder of the museum’s Center for Feminist Art, gave flowers. Beyond that, the art world is predominantly absent from the list, though there were a few anonymous donations, including “four MetroCard holders” from “unknown.” (Klaus Biesenbach, is that you?)
Brooklyn, of course, is de Blasio’s home turf, and he has long been a supporter of the Brooklyn Museum, especially as a city council member. He is thanked specifically for aiding in the creation of the museum’s contemporary galleries in materials promoting “Unfolding,” a show that presented recent acquisitions by the museum alongside a re-hanging of older items from the permanent collection. Lehman also acted, in the words of the New York Times, as a “key liaison between the de Blasio administration and the city’s museums” during the mayor’s initiative to give free or discounted tickets to New York City’s cultural institutions to holders of municipal ID cards.