Since joining the board of trustees of the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1976, Agnes Gund has long held sway over the art world, and she has used her position to support the careers of generations of artists—in particular women artists, artists of color, and queer artists—long before mainstream institutions were paying attention to them. She also felt that it was necessary to advocate for these artists within museums, arguing that sites like MoMA ought to boldly dare to acquire work by those who were transforming the art world.
“We’ve caught up with Aggie to some degree,” Ann Temkin, chief curator of painting and sculpture at MoMA, recently told ARTnews. “She was ahead of her time as far back as the 1970s.”
Gund’s first major purchase was a sculpture by Henry Moore, but she soon donated that piece to the Cleveland Museum of Art after feeling guilty about spending so much money on it. Among the artists she initially began to collect were Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Willem de Kooning, and Mark Rothko, who were later joined by Lynda Benglis, Louise Bourgeois, Nick Cave, Julie Mehretu, Catherine Opie, Vija Celmins, Martin Puryear, and many others.
Since that first Moore sculpture donation, Gund has gifted several U.S. museums with hundreds of works from her collection, most notably MoMA, which has received or been promised more than 900 works of art. Gund rarely sells work from her collection, except on rare occasions to benefit causes that are dear to her. She parted ways with her prized Roy Lichtenstein to create the six-year initiative the Art for Justice Fund, and she sold a Carmen Herrera work to benefited her alma mater, Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut.
See a slideshow of selections from her collection below.