The financier and philanthropist Richard Driehaus died Tuesday evening at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Driehaus, who was born in the city in 1942, championed art and classical architecture in his hometown.
"We are deeply saddened by the news of Richard Driehaus's passing. Everyone at the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events extends our most sincere condolences to his family and colleagues,” said the city’s culture commissioner Mark Kelly. “He was a longtime icon of Chicago’s art, design and historic preservation community—and a champion of our city's cultural history as well as emerging creative voices. He will be truly missed."
After studying business at DePaul University, Driehaus became an expert in mutual funds and started Driehaus Capital Management. In 1983, he established his eponymous foundation and began supporting a range of local cultural organisations from Arts Alliance Illinois to Lawyers for the Creative Arts. The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation partnered with The Terra Foundation in 2017, investing $8 million in Art Design Chicago—a multi-institutional exploration of the city’s design history. The foundation currently awards around $5m in grants annually, partly in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation.
In 2003, the civic-minded tycoon established The Driehaus Architecture Prize (managed by University of Notre Dame) which comes with a $200,000 award. Driehaus was also a preservationist who was as fond of the Chicago bungalow as he was of grander spaces. In 2003, he also purchased the Nickerson House, an 1883 mansion considered the most lavish home in the area in its day. After a glorious restoration, the house was opened to the public as the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, devoted to the decorative arts of the Gilded Age. The museum launched a contemporary art programme in 2018 and the inaugural exhibition featured the work of Yinka Shonibare.
A gregarious and generous spirit, Driehaus was known for his annual private summer party on the grounds of his estate on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin, with more that 1,000 lucky invitees. Diana Ross was the entertainment for his 77th birthday in 2019.
“Richard Driehaus loved architecture, and from an early age, when he was not yet the wealthy person he became, believed deeply in giving back,” said Sunny Fischer, the co-founder of the National Public Housing Museum and the former executive director of the Driehaus foundation. “From the beginning of the foundation’s work, and before, Richard was committed to supporting preservation and good design for all of Chicago. He believed in supporting all the arts, especially smaller groups, knowing the benefits to the city he loved. Richard’s generosity and willingness to take risks, made him an extraordinary philanthropist, a remarkable citizen of Chicago.”