The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has received $80 million from trustee Florence Irving and her husband, Herbert, who died last year at age 98. The donation is the largest financial gift the museum has received in its recent history, and it will be used toward establishing a new acquisitions endowment fund.
Many acquisitions made through the fund, as well as several other endowment funds in the museum’s Asian art department, will be artworks from China, the Himalayas, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. There will be a particular emphasis on decorative works from China and Indian and Southeast Asian art, which the Irvings collected extensively.
This is not the first major contribution the Irvings have made to the Met’s Asian art department. In 2004, to recognize their donations over the years, the Met renamed its South Asian and Southeast Asian art galleries after the couple. More recently, in 2015, the Irvings gifted more than 1,200 artworks to the Asian art department. Their philanthropy has also extended beyond that department: in 2015, the Irvings also endowed a staff position at the Met’s Watson Library.
Daniel H. Weiss, the museum’s president and CEO, said in a statement, “The Irvings have been inspirational donors in building the museum’s collections and galleries of Asian Art since 1987. This additional gift is truly transformative for the Met, and will ensure that the legacy of scholarship, programming, and collection-building they have been so instrumental in building will continue to thrive.”
The news was revealed by the Met today in addition to the release of its annual report, which noted that the museum’s endowment had grown over to almost $300 million the past year, and that it had raised some $232 million in gifts. By its own estimation, the museum, which has been mired in controversy for the way it has handled its financial resources and instability in its director position, will right its deficit by 2020. Weiss told the New York Times today that the museum had not yet made a decision about what to do with the Met Breuer at the end of its eight-year lease.