Debra and Leon Black had a big year in 2012. That May it was revealed that they had been the winning bidders for Edvard Munch’s 1895 pastel drawing The Scream, sold at Sotheby’s May 2 sale in New York for $119.9 million—at the time the most money ever spent on a work at auction. It was also in 2012 that Leon, a businessman specializing in private equity, bought the art-book publisher Phaidon and, together with his wife, a Broadway producer, donated $48 million to Dartmouth College for a new visual arts center. (The donation came with the gift of a site-specific Ellsworth Kelly work.) Another major acquisition for the Blacks came in 2016, when Leon was declared the legal victor in a dispute and declared the rightful owner of Picasso’s celebrated 1931 plaster sculpture, Bust of a Woman (Marie-Thérèse). (In May 2015, Gagosian Gallery had purchased the sculpture, a star of the 2015 “Picasso Sculpture” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, for about $106 million from Picasso’s daughter Maya Widmaier-Picasso, and subsequently sold it to Leon. What followed was a protracted legal battle between the gallery and the Qatari royal family.) Leon serves on the boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Asia Society, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
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