Whitney gets lion’s share of tobacco giant’s art…

Altria is giving 190 works to 10 museums in the United States

NEWYORK. Tobacco and food giant Altria will donate approximately 190 works of art to ten US museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Inter­national Center of Photography (ICP), and the Brooklyn Museum. The company expects to complete the gifts by the end of this month, says a spokesman, noting that approval is pending from the acquisitions committees of several institutions. The majority of the works—111 pieces by Jennifer Bartlett, Andy Warhol, and Philip Guston valued at nearly $1.2m—will go to the Whitney, which for 25 years operated a branch museum funded by Altria in the corporation’s former headquarters on Park Avenue. “We worked with the Whitney to develop recommendations for the initial distribution,” says the spokesman, noting that the museum had advised the company on starting the collection in the 1980s.

The gifts are part of the 700 paintings, textiles, works on paper, prints and photographs that the company assembled until ceasing acquisitions in 2000. The collection was appraised at more than $8.5m in December 2006. Its dispersal follows the company’s reorganisation. Facing tobacco litigation, Altria spun off its Kraft Foods division last year and in March made Marlboro cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris Inter­national a separate entity. As a result, Altria’s cultural philanthropy programme—among the most generous in New York—will end this year; the Whitney branch at Altria closed in January.

Seven other recipients are in Manhattan: ICP has accepted 13 photographs including pictures by Michal Rovner and Jason Salavon. El Museo del Barrio will get five works by Francisco Toledo, Pablo Soria, Luis Cruz Azaceta and others; and the Studio Museum in Harlem will receive ten works by Romare Bearden, Betye Saar and others collectively valued at just over $1m. “We focused on smaller institutions because we thought they would derive a greater benefit,” says the Altria spokesman. Other recipients include the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Lincoln Center, which will get two works in honour of Philip Morris’s former chief executive, George Weissman, who served as its chairman. The Brooklyn Academy of Music will get 13 works to sell to raise funds. Three masks will be repatriated to tribes in Arizona and New Mexico.

Jason Edward Kaufman

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