Billionaire Bequests Collection to Pair of Museums

Richard Mellon Scaife.
Photo: Keith Srakocic/Associated Press.

Billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife gifted his extensive art collection to two museums in Pennsylvania: the Brandywine River Museum of Art, in Chadds Ford near Philadelphia, and the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg.

Representatives from the two institutions met last week to decide how the 500 pieces should be divided up, reports the Sharon Herald.

According to the newspaper, the 140 best works were set aside, and museums took their picks in turn. The rest of the pieces will be split evenly in the coming days.

Mellon Scaife was a towering figure in the region. When he died on July 4, 2014, the late Pittsburgh Tribune-Review publisher and conservative stalwart was worth an estimated $1.4 billion.

The Mellon banking dynasty is one of the best-known philanthropic families in the US. It founded the National Gallery in Washington D. C., and several of its members were discerning art collectors.

Bunny Mellon, whose collection fetched $218 million at Sotheby’s New York last month (see “Bunny Mellon Collection More Than Doubles Expectations at $218 Million”), was a renowned Rothko collector and acquired many pieces directly from the artist’s studio in the 1950s.

But Mellon Scaife was less keen on modern art, it seems. Highlights from his bequest include 19th landscape paintings by the likes of George Inness, Martin Johnson Heade, and John Kensett.

These were very well received by the beneficiaries. “We have had a few Hudson River painters, but Mr. Scaife’s gift takes that to a completely different level,” Thomas Padon, curator at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, told the Sharon Herald.

Mellon Scaife also left the museum his 900-acre Ligonier estate, endowed with a $15 million maintenance fund.

On top of its share of the collection, the Westmoreland museum received $5 million and an ensemble of John Kane paintings.

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