Collector confirms US$150 million sale of painting to support fund for justice reform

Art collector and patron Agnes Gund sold her prized 1962 Roy Lichtenstein masterpiece to create a fund that supports criminal justice reform.
Art collector and patron Agnes Gund sold her prized 1962 Roy Lichtenstein masterpiece to create a fund that supports criminal justice reform.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (NYT) - In January, rumours swirled that art collector and patron Agnes Gund had sold her prized 1962 Roy Lichtenstein masterpiece for US$150 million (S$208 million), placing it among the 15 highest known prices ever paid for an artwork.

She is confirming that sale now, revealing that she parted with the painting for a specific purpose: to create a fund that supports criminal justice reform and seeks to reduce mass incarceration in the United States.

This new Art for Justice Fund - to be announced on Monday at the Museum of Modern Art, where she is president emerita - will start with US$100 million of the proceeds from the Lichtenstein.

Gund, 78, has asked other collectors to do the same, in the hopes of raising an additional US$100 million over the next five years.

The effort is noteworthy because she is essentially challenging fellow collectors to use their artworks to champion social causes at a time when the market has made their holdings more valuable than ever.

"The larger idea is to raise awareness among a community of art collectors that they can use their influence and their collections to advance social justice," said Mr Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation which will administer the fund.

"Art has meaning on a wall but it also has meaning when it is monetised."