The Perelman Family Foundation, headed by cosmetics mogul and art collector Ronald Perelman, has pledged $25 million to Brown University to build an arts district at the Providence, Rhode Island, Ivy League school.
According to a press release, the district, which will carry Perelman’s name, will host a performing arts center scheduled to open in the fall. The district will also include various other performance centers and teaching, gallery, rehearsal, and performance spaces. Perelman’s gift will go toward the school’s “BrownTogether” campaign, which aims to raise $4 billion to support research, teaching, financial aid, and athletics at the university.
“The open-ended concept behind the arts district affirms the arts exist everywhere at Brown, and in fact, migrate wherever Brown’s artists go,” Perelman said of the donation in a statement. Perelman, the chairman and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes Inc., formerly served as a Brown trustee.
A statement from Brown described Perelman as “one of the country’s leading philanthropists,” though his giving has previously come under scrutiny. In 2018 Perelman pledged $65 million to Princeton University to build a residential college in his name; in August 2021, however, the school terminated the agreement for the gift after Perelman failed to fulfill payments toward it through his namesake foundation. The school rejected Perelman’s attempt to renegotiate a payment plan.
The failed donation came after Perelman, a majority shareholder in the Revlon cosmetics company who has been featured on the ARTnews list of Top 200 collectors, began parting with financial assets in 2020 in a dramatic sell-off—auctioning a super yacht, a private jet, and $40 million worth of blue-chip artworks from his 1,000-item collection. He also sold his majority stake in Humvee-maker AM General, along with shares in two other businesses: Merisant and MAFCO. Additionally, questions were raised about this family foundation’s transactions.
In a statement published by Bloomberg in September 2020, Perelman maintained that the asset sales were not made under financial duress, but were rather part of a mid-pandemic strategy “to seek new investment opportunities.”