Most art collectors aren’t able to pluck a painting from above their mantel and sell it for $150 million ($165 million if you include fees.) But Agnes Gund ’60 isn’t a typical collector. Earlier this year, the philanthropist, art patron, and president emerita of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, sold the 1962 painting Masterpiece, by Roy Lichtenstein, in order to establish the Art for Justice Fund, which supports criminal justice reform and combats racial inequality in America.
Gund used $100 million of the sale’s proceeds to establish the organization, and over the next five years, she plans to raise an additional $100 million with the help of the Ford Foundation, which she has partnered with to run the fund.
The targets Gund and the foundation have set are ambitious by any standard. Within the next seven years, they hope to reduce the prison population by one-quarter, and plan to invest heavily in efforts at the state level that address disparities in sentencing for minorities.
A seasoned advocate for social justice, Gund was inspired to act in large part by the spate of recent shootings of unarmed black men by police, and by the documentary 13th, which examines, in agonizing and heartrending detail, the inequities the law enforcement, judicial and prison systems force upon black communities.
“I thought I should do something about something that to me is so wrong about our system,” Gund told The Washington Post. “We’ve just loaded up our prisons with mostly people of color and given them different penalties … And then I thought I should know more about it, and then I thought, maybe this is something I could address.”
Gund’s leadership has already led to other prominent collectors selling pieces of artwork and donating to her organization, but for those who don’t want to part with their prized pieces, or for anybody else outside of the art world who would like to contribute to the Art for Justice Fund, direct monetary donations are also welcome.
To find out more about the organization, visit www.artforjusticefund.org.