The Whitney Museum Is Now Officially the Leonard A. Lauder Building

His pockets are deep.

The Whitney Museum Photo: Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan

Should a visit to the Whitney Museum find you stumbling across select works by Agnes Martin, Jasper Johns, and Frank Stella (among other post-war masters), you may be looking at gifts of Leonard A. Lauder. For over four decades, the collector has been a key figure in shaping the museum’s collection, donating over 700 works of art and providing a steady stream of financial support.

In the lead-up to the institution’s one-year anniversary in its new home, the Whitney is honoring Lauder for his continued support by naming their Meatpacking District location the Leonard A. Lauder Building. What’s more, the museum has also given him their inaugural Collection Award.

Museums have long flattered their most generous benefactors by offering up wings and buildings in their names. In 1973, for example, during a race with other museums to house the Temple of Dendur, the Metropolitan Museum of Art named their north wing the Sackler Exhibition Hall, after philanthropist Arthur Mitchell Sackler agreed to financing the project.

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 28: Leonard A. Lauder (L) and founder Sir Elton John attend the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 13th Annual An Enduring Vision Benefit at Cipriani Wall Street on October 28, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 28: Leonard A. Lauder (L) and founder Sir Elton John (R) attend the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s 13th Annual An Enduring Vision Benefit at Cipriani Wall Street on October 28, 2014 in New York City.
Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images.

Adam D. Weinberg, a director at the museum, thinks that these high honors are fitting moves on the Whitney’s part. “It is appropriate that Leonard is the recipient of the first Whitney Collection Award,” Weinberg said in a statement. “Indeed it was Leonard who led the way forward with a major gift early on in our capital campaign.”

Lauder has proven to be a reliable if not paternal influence for the museum. Through his American Contemporary Art Foundation, he donated an eye-catching $131 million in 2008 to the institution—likely an invaluable gift considering the economic crash that devastated museums across the country that year. Of course these lofty donations are mere drops in the bucket for a man whom Forbes estimates as having a net worth of $9.6 billion.


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