Art Institute of Chicago Receives $500 Million Pop Art Collection

Art Scene

Art Institute of Chicago Receives $500 Million Pop Art Collection

The Art Institute of Chicago has accepted the largest donation in its history.

Local philanthropists Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson gifted a curated set of pop art works with an estimated value of $500 million to the museum in April. The 42-piece collection spans 1953-2011, and includes works by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons, Charles Ray, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman and Gerhard Richter.

“It’s a powerful statement to have a collection of this international stature staying here in Chicago,” said Robert Levy, chairman of the Art Institute’s board. “It’s unbelievably exciting for the Art Institute, for the City of Chicago, for the entire art community of Chicago. It’s all good.”

Museum president and director Douglas Druick called it a landmark gift in the museum’s 136-year history and “a great gift to the city of Chicago.”

Edlis said one of the main reasons he moved forward with the donation was because the Art Institute offered to show the collection for 50 years, a commitment that far exceeds the typical timeline for donated artworks.

“They always end up being shown for a short period of time, and then they end up in storage,” he said. “I kept asking them: ‘Do you need another warehouse full of art?'”

Edlis called the 50-year agreement an offer him and Neeson couldn’t refuse.

Druick spoke on the significance of the donation from a piece-by-piece standpoint.

“It’s not simply names and numbers,” he said. “It’s the works themselves. It’s the best of the best. These are incredibly passionate and discerning collectors who have very ably refined their collections over time.”

He added, “There are things we obviously desperately needed, like Warhol. We had one. Now we have nine other Warhols so we can really tell the Warhol story.”

Among the notable works in the collection are Warhol’s Flowers and Mona Lisa Four Times; Lichtenstein’s Artist Studio’s “Foot Medication;” Johns’ Target; and two Warhol self-portraits.

“In recent memory I cannot recall a more important gift to an institution that comprises several generations of artists so clearly and so astutely,” said Laura Paulson, chairman of postwar and contemporary art at the auction house Christie’s. “I can’t think of anything in the postwar and contemporary art world this generous and this meaningful.”


Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1964 (© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.)


Andy Warhol, Mona Lisa Four Times, 1979


Roy Lichtenstein, Artist’s Studio “Foot Medication,” 1974


Jasper Johns, Target, 1955, © 2015 Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY