Billionaire William Louis-Dreyfus Gifts $50 Million Art Collection to Harlem Kids

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and William Louis-Dreyfus. Courtesy Getty Images.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus and William Louis-Dreyfus. Courtesy Getty Images.

William Louis-Dreyfus, the billionaire businessman and art collector (and father to actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus), is selling his art collection to support a very good cause: the Harlem Children’s Zone, an organization that provides support to underprivileged children.

Louis-Dreyfus, who is 82 years old, has spent the past 50 years assembling a massive 3,500-piece collection, which is estimated to be worth between $10 million and $50 million.

Louis-Dreyfus is known for being a savvy collector who eschews the typical boldface names in favor of underappreciated artists like Leonardo Cremonini, George Boorujy, Jean Dubuffet, Helen Frankenthaler, and Bill Traylor, but also collects recent crowd-pleaser Alberto Giacometti. His collection was even the subject of a recent documentary narrated by his daughter.

Barrons reports that Louis-Dreyfus made the decision to donate the proceeds from his collection to the Harlem Children’s Zone after watching a segment about the nonprofit on 60 Minutes. It explained the organization’s innovative “cradle to college” approach to breaking the cycle of generational poverty, which struck a chord with Louis-Dreyfus.

“I realized one morning that my children do not need to be any richer than they are,” he said, “and they did not need the spoils from my collection.”

Louis-Dreyfus also had no interest in donating the expansive collection to a museum. “It was not going to the Met or the MoMA,” he said. Instead, he has transferred much of the collection into the name of his nonprofit, the William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation, and plans to sell it off piecemeal over the coming years based on the market and the demand for certain artists. While many of the collection’s lesser-known artists currently have little market demand, the tides can quickly change.

The proceeds will be set up in such a way that the organization will have a continually growing pool of capital to draw from over time.

To see works from the Louis-Dreyfus Family Collection, visit See the Artworks Billionaire William Louis-Dreyfus Is Gifting to Harlem Kids.

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