The Met Just Received $125 Million—the Largest Gift in Its History—to Build Its Long-Awaited Modern Wing Expansion

The gift comes from financier Oscar Tang and his wife Agnes Hsu-Tang.

Agnes Hsu-Tang (L) and Oscar Tang in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage).
Agnes Hsu-Tang (L) and Oscar Tang in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today the largest gift in its history, a whopping $125 million from financier Oscar L. Tang and his wife, Agnes Hsu-Tang.

The gift, the largest ever capital donation to the museum, will help it realize the almost decade-long projected renovation of the Modern wing, which will be renamed for the Tangs for at least 50 years.

It will take a total of around $500 million to complete the projected 80,000-square-foot gallery and public space, which will be designed by an as yet unnamed architect. Although the museum suffered a $150 million shortfall during the pandemic, Met president and C.E.O. Daniel Weiss told the New York Times that “we’re not concerned” about finding the additional funding, adding that “our finances are very stable.” Weiss did not specify if the museum would ask the city of New York, which owns the Met’s land and building, for additional funding.

Max Hollein, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Eileen Travell, courtesy of the Met.

Max Hollein, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Eileen Travell, courtesy of the Met.

A full renovation of the current modern and contemporary galleries, inaugurated in 1987 as the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing and spanning 110,000 square feet, was delayed in 2017 when the pricetag had ratcheted up to $600 million. In 2018, when Max Hollein signed on as the museum’s director, it announced plans to continue plans to overhaul its galleries dedicated to Africa, Oceania, and the Americas before setting its sights on the Modern wing.

The renovations are part of Hollein’s approach to encourage a more inclusive exhibition of the museum’s holdings in keeping with the debut contemporary sculpture project displayed on the museum’s facade, as well finding homes for works like the trove of Cubist works gifted by Leonard A. Lauder in 2013.

Tang, who co-founded the asset management firm Reich and Tang, has served as a trustee of the museum for three decades, beginning in 1994 when he was the first American of Asian descent to join the board. He was born in Shanghai and sent to school in the U.S. while his family fled China for Hong Kong during the Communist revolution in 1948.

“America gave me refuge and the education and opportunities to succeed,” he said in a statement.

Hsu-Tang is an art historian and archaeologist who is the chair-elect of the board of the New-York Historical Society whose name adorns centers for Chinese studies at Columbia University, U.C. Berkeley, and Oxford University Press. She also advised UNESCO in Paris from 2003 to 2014 and served on President Obama’s cultural property advisory committee.

“The reimagining of these galleries will allow the Museum to approach 20th- and 21st-century art from a global, encyclopedic, bold, and surprising perspective,” Hollein said in a statement, “—all values that reflect the legacy of Oscar and Agnes.”

“The Met has a special opportunity to be much more global in the context of Modern and contemporary,” Tang told the New York Times. “In the art field, there has been insufficient focus on this. We wanted to help the museum move in that direction, beyond the Western canon.”

At a time when philanthropists like the Sacklers face accusations of “art-washing” their charitable gifts, as well as a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes stemming from former President Trump’s mischaracterization of the pandemic, it feels especially timely for an Asian couple to grace the new wing. “This country has been good to me—good to both of us,” Tang told the Times. “And we want to put our stamp on it.”


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