David Geffen Gives the Museum of Modern Art $100 Million Gift for Expansion

The billionaire will have a wing of the expanded museum named after him.

David Geffen.Photo: Courtesy of Patrick McMullan.
David Geffen.
Photo: Courtesy of Patrick McMullan.

Billionaire collector and philanthropist David Geffen is making a $100 million donation to New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) for its latest expansion project, the largest gift to date in that project’s capital campaign.

In exchange, three floors of new galleries will be named the David Geffen Wing. Further, the fourth floor suite of galleries in the institution’s current building will also be named after him, according to reports in Bloomberg and the New York Times.

The entire project is budgeted at roughly $400 million, as well as up to $45 million for renovations to existing structures. Geffen’s gift will be paid out over time, though MoMA board president Marie-Josee Kravis told Bloomberg it’s a “rapid payout.”

In a statement from MoMA, Kravis said:

Whether through his professional success, his discriminating eye and passion for collecting, his unparalleled generosity to arts institutions, or his commitment to education and medical research and clinical practice, David Geffen has changed the cultural, social, and healthcare landscape of this country. We are thrilled that his transformative gift to MoMA will support our efforts to grow our audiences and deepen and improve our programs and collections. We are deeply grateful to David, a longtime and loyal MoMA friend.

Museum of Modern Art.Photo: Courtesy of Google Maps.

Museum of Modern Art.
Photo: Courtesy of Google Maps.

The project (which involved the controversial demolition of the beloved American Folk Art Museum building) is expected to be completed in 2019 or 2020.

Geffen, who was born in Brooklyn, told Bloomberg that he has been going to MoMA regularly since he was 20 years old. “I love the museum and it collection,” he said. The 73-year old entertainment mogul recalled visiting MoMA with friends while on lunch break during the years when he worked in the mail room at William Morris Agency.

Geffen is widely considered one of the top art collectors in the world. He has owned work by Abstract Expressionist masters Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Jasper Johns.

He made headlines in February when it emerged that he had sold two artworks, a Pollock painting and a de Kooning painting, to hedge fund manager Ken Griffin for about $500 million. It is one of the biggest art transactions ever. (Griffin has also donated to MoMA’s expansion; the museum’s current building, which will become the east wing at the project’s completion, will be named after him in gratitude for the $40 million gift.)

Geffen, who has a net worth of $6.8 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index, said of his collecting activity: “I advised myself. I developed these instincts while I was coming to MoMA.”

He also said it never occurred to him that his paintings “would become as valuable as they have become.”

The MoMA donation is only the latest large-scale philanthropic act on the part of the billionaire. Last year, to honor Geffen’s $100 million gift, Lincoln Center named its largest concert hall in his honor.

Geffen’s record-setting 2002 donation of $200 million to the UCLA School of Medicine, now the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, was the single largest donation of its kind to a US medical school. In 2015, Geffen gave UCLA an additional $100 million to establish an on-campus college preparatory school for Los Angeles-area students in grades six through 12. Geffen’s total philanthropic support to UCLA exceeds $400 million.


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