Agnes Gund urges collectors to sell their art to fight for justice

The philanthropist used her profits from the sale of a Roy Lichtenstein painting to create a criminal justice fund, in partnership with the Ford Foundation


The Ford Foundation has partnered with the American philanthropist Agnes Gund to launch a fund to help organisations in the US that deal with criminal justice reform. Called Art for Justice, the initiative was started with a $100m donation from Gund, who raised the cash by selling Roy Lichtenstein’s Masterpiece (1962) from her collection to the hedge fund manager Steven Cohen for $165m through the New York gallerist Bill Acquavella.

Gund has asked other collectors, such as Laurie Tisch and Kenneth Chenault, to follow suit, and so far 15 collectors have committed works of art to aid the cause. Over the next five years, the initiative, which will be managed by the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, hopes to raise an additional $100m through art sales and private grants. These funds will help the work of organisations such as the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Equal Justice Initiative.

Gund, who backs various other social causes and programmes, “has the unique perspective of being a prominent, privileged white woman who has six African American grandchildren”, Darren Walker, the president of the foundation, told The Art Newspaper. “The initiative stems from her avid concerns around the urgent crisis of mass incarceration and the need to address changes to our criminal justice system”.