Helen Frankenthaler Foundation plans $5m coronavirus relief effort

Multi-year effort will start with $1.25m in grants to a contemporary art foundation, an Artist Relief Fund and New York arts groups

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Helen Frankenthaler in her New York studio in 1973 with her painting-in-progress Hybrid Vigor Courtesy Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Archives, New York; Photograph by Edward Youkilis/© 2020 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Helen Frankenthaler in her New York studio in 1973 with her painting-in-progress Hybrid Vigor Courtesy Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Archives, New York; Photograph by Edward Youkilis/© 2020 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation today announced a relief effort for artists and art organisations buffeted by the coronavirus (Covid-19) that will disburse $5m over the next three years.

The foundation, established and endowed by Frankenthaler (1928–2011), says the initiative marks its biggest commitment of funds to a single cause since it became active in 2013. The first round of funding will include immediate gifts of $500,000 for the Foundation for Contemporary Arts’ Covid-19 relief fund, which is funneling emergency grants to artists to offset income losses resulting from cancelled performances or exhibitions; $500,000 for a new Artist Relief Fund that will offer direct grants to artists facing general hardship; and $250,000 for an alliance of small New York City-based arts organisations that present the work of living artists.

That consortium of groups includes Artists Space, Creative Time, the Drawing Center, Eyebeam, the Kitchen, the Laundromat Project, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Performance Space New York, Printed Matter, Recess, Socrates Sculpture Park, the Sculpture Center, the Storefront for Art and Architecture, the Swiss Institute and White Columns.

Additional recipients will be announced over the next three years.

“The art world must galvanise to support both its artists and those that work every day at its museums and cultural institutions,” Clifford Ross, the foundation’s board chairman, said in a statement. “We believe this is the moment to step up.”

The foundation is known as a deep resource on Frankenthaler, who blazed a trail from Abstract Expressionism to Colour Field painting. It also is a repository of her work and finances a variety of philanthropic, educational and research initiatives.

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