John Waters Has Pledged to Donate His Art Collection to the Baltimore Museum Once He Dies—So Long as It Names Its Bathrooms After Him

The gift includes nearly 400 works of art.

John Waters at the Baltimore Museum of Art for his exhibition
John Waters at the Baltimore Museum of Art for his exhibition "Indecent Exposure," in 2018. Photo by Chuck Patch, via Flickr.

“Who wants to be famous?” screams Divine in John Waters’s 1974 comedy Female Trouble. “Who wants to die for art?”

Even if Waters himself won’t die for art exactly, he will, when he dies, donate his art collection—to his hometown institution, the Baltimore Museum of Art.

The beloved cult filmmaker and visual artist will give some 372 works by 125 artists, the majority of his holdings, to the museum (which is known lately more for controversially selling works than for acquiring them). The gift includes pieces by artists including Diane Arbus, Thomas Demand, Nan Goldin, Christian Marclay, Catherine Opie, Gary Simmons, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol and Christopher Wool, reports the New York Times. The terms of the gift stipulate that none of the works can be sold, Waters told the paper.

Another stipulation is that the museum will name a rotunda after him, as well as two bathrooms. “They thought I was kidding and I said, ‘No, I’m serious,’” the artist told the Baltimore Sun. “It’s in the spirit of the artwork I collect, which has a sense of humor and is confrontational and minimalist and which makes people crazy.”

Waters has a longstanding relationship with the museum, starting when he bought a poster of a work by Joan Miró there when he was 12. “Ugh, that’s disgusting,” said the other kids of the image, he recalled to the Times. Later came a print of Warhol’s Jackie. He also showed his own artwork in a retrospective there, “John Waters: Indecent Exposure,” in 2018. Talking about his pieces that poke fun at the art world, he told Artnet News’s Taylor Dafoe, “That’s the work the art world likes the best.”

The gift includes some 86 works by Waters himself, which will make the museum home to the largest single collection of his work.


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