Next week, the influential arts patron and collector Agnes Gund will add another accolade to a list that currently includes a National Medal of Honor and a lifetime achievement award from the Getty Museum: the inaugural Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award, bestowed upon her by the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation. The award, which recognizes a woman whose work has changed society, will be given out by its namesake, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. on February 14.
“To be compared to Justice Ginsburg is so extraordinary and an overwhelming honor,” Gund said in a statement. “I have worked most of my life to ensure that access to art should be a right, not a privilege because it can open minds and inspire dreams.”
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Gund, the president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art and chairman of MoMA PS1, has long held a powerful presence in the art world. In 2017, Gund, who ranks on ARTnews’s Top 200 Collectors list, sold her prized Roy Lichtenstein, Masterpiece (1962), for a staggering $150 million to launch the nonprofit Art for Justice Fund, which supports criminal justice reform by making grants available to organization nationwide that seek to combat mass incarceration. The fund also supports art-related programming centered on education and social justice.
The creation of her fund made headlines—partly due to its $100 million endowment, but also because the sale was essentially a challenge from Gund to fellow collectors to leverage their art holdings into social change. The call was answered by some: Laurie M. Tisch, a chairwoman of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, promised to contribute $500,000 in proceeds from the recent sale of a Max Weber painting. “This is one thing I can do before I die,” Gund told the New York Times after the sale. “This is what I need to do.”