When Barbara Lee decided she wanted to help change the world, the answer to the question of how to do it was simple: get women elected to public office. Since making that decision, Lee has helped more than 132 women get elected. If politics are her mission, however, art is her passion. She has devoted the same energy to forwarding the interests of female contemporary artists as she has to supporting female politicians. “The art world is an old boy’s club,” Lee told Blouin Artinfo in 2014. “Women artists…lack access to the kind of institutional support that can lead to visibility and success.” Lee is trying her best to fix that. Museums and curators, the collector insists, need to play the leading role in promoting work by female artists. To do that, they have to have access to that work. In May of 2014, Lee sold Andy Warhol’s White Marilyn (1962) at auction for $41 million so that she could use the money to buy artwork by women. In late 2014, Lee donated 43 works by 25 different female artists, a collection that was the result of three decades of collecting, to the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston—and she continues to collect.

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Barbara Lee

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Source of wealth:

Collecting area:
Contemporary art by women

Top 200 appearance:
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Fun fact:

Barbara Lee has a trampoline in her office. “You get on there and you smile automatically,” she told Boston Magazine in 2015. “You feel uplifted.”