Dick Wolf, a television producer best known as the creator of the ubiquitous legal and police drama Law & Order, has gifted the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York more than 200 works and a sum said to be in the tens of millions of dollars to endow two galleries that will now be named after him. The donation, announced on 20 December, consists mainly of Renaissance and Baroque works spanning the 15th century to the 18th century, but also includes more recent pieces such as an early landscape painting by Vincent van Gogh, as well as decorative arts objects.
“From works by the best-known and most beloved artists of the Renaissance and Baroque eras, to those who are lesser known but of deep historical importance, the collection reflects Dick Wolf’s excellent connoisseurship and enduring dedication to the diverse artistic media of the periods,” Max Hollein, the Met’s director and chief executive, said in a statement.
Among the treasures included in the gift is Artemisia Gentileschi’s Susanna and the Elders, Madonna and Child (around 1620) by her father Orazio Gentileschi and a tondo painting of the same subject by Botticelli, Madonna and Child with the Young Baptist, Saint Francis receiving the Stigmata in the Distance (around 1480s). The gift is also rich in pieces by Guercino, Bronzino, Giovanni Battista and Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo. The Van Gogh, Beach at Scheveningen in Calm Weather (1882), was one of the 40 works by the artist discovered hidden in a crate that had been abandoned in an attic. It sold for $2.8m at Sotheby’s in November 2022.
“He has assembled—with intelligence and a great eye—a superb collection of paintings, sculpture, drawings, furniture and decorative arts that speaks eloquently of the times and places in which they were made,” Don Bacigalupi, the advisor who helped Wolf assemble that collection, said in a statement.
In addition to artworks, Wolf contributed an unspecified sum—a Met spokesperson told The New York Times it was an eight-figure contribution—to endow two galleries in the museum’s department of European sculpture and decorative arts, which will be named the Dick Wolf Galleries in honour of the gift. Select works donated by the producer will go on view in those galleries; Orazio Gentileschi’s Madonna and Child is already on view in one of the museum’s recently refurbished galleries devoted to European paintings from between 1300 and 1800. An installation focused on a set of drawings from Wolf’s collection will go on view in the coming years.
While Wolf is based in Los Angeles, the gift was partly inspired by fond childhood memories of visiting the museum. “From the time I was eight years old, I would stop at the Met on my way home from school, two to three times a month, and wander the galleries,” he said in a statement. “It was a simpler time, there was no admission, you could walk in off the street.”
Wolf bought several of the gifted works—including the pieces by Gentileschi and Botticelli—over the past decade, suggesting that he is one of precious few serious collectors of Old Masters still spending seven-figure sums on the increasingly limited number of major works left in private hands. Many more collectors, particularly in the entertainment industry, have taken an interest in post-war and contemporary art.