Seattle University Is Receiving a $300 Million Art Collection

The gift is the largest-ever donation to a university in the United States.

Amy Sherald, The Make Believer (Monet's Garden) (2016). Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Seattle University in Washington has received a $300 million art collection, the largest ever donated to a university in the United States, and another $25 million in seed funding to establish a new museum.

Collector Richard Hedreen donated the massive collection—with more than 200 works of art dating back to the 1400s—in honor of his late wife Elizabeth Ann Petri Hedreen, an alum of the Jesuit Catholic university. The campus, home to some 7,200 students, is just a short walk from downtown Seattle.

The donation is remarkable, not just because of its size, but because of how it was handled in comparison to other large collections, The Seattle Times noted. For example, collections by the likes of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen were sold through auction sales instead of remaining intact in the city where they lived.

An older woman and an older man sitting side by side in a waiting area with rows of empty seats in the background. The woman is smiling gently towards the camera, with shoulder-length gray hair and wearing a black and white houndstooth jacket with a black top underneath. The man has short white hair, is wearing glasses, and is dressed in a light orange checkered shirt. They both appear to be cheerful and are looking directly at the camera

Richard and Betty Hedreen. Photo courtesy of Richard Hedreen.

“Betty and I always felt that we were custodians of the artworks we acquired, holding them in trust for a larger purpose,” Hedreen said in a statement. “The Jesuits place a special focus on the arts and humanities, including art history, and that has long been reflected in Seattle University’s Jesuit education and its connections to the Seattle arts community.”

Hedreen, a Seattle native, made his fortune after founding the general contracting company R. C. Hedreen Co., which was instrumental in developing hotels in the city. He met Betty Hedreen while she was a student and, together, the couple amassed a large collection of art ranging from the Old Masters to contemporary art.

The couple previously donated pieces from their collection to the Seattle Art Museum, where Betty Hedreen served on the board of trustees. Previous donations were also made to the National Gallery of Art and Seattle University, but Hedreen said in a statement that he wished to keep the remainder of the collection intact.

Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun's portrait of the Duc de Riviere, who is depicted in military dress, with medals affixed to his coat.

Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun, Portrait of the Duc de Riviere (1828). Courtesy of Richard Hedreen.

The collection contains significant paintings and sculptures from art history giants, including Titian, Jacopo da Pontormo, Jan Lievens, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Luis Melendez, Thomas Gainsborough, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Indiana.

Additionally, the collection includes etchings by Lucian Freud, photographs by the likes of Berenice Abbott, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn, Louis Stettner, and Andy Warhol, and six paintings by Cecily Brown.

“Since their earliest days, the Jesuits have recognized the visual arts as a powerful tool of communication and teaching, and the arts are an essential part of the holistic Jesuit model of higher education,” said Seattle University President Eduardo Peñalver. “Seattle University is honored to receive this transformational gift from the Hedreens, who have built one of the finest private art collections in the nation.”

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