Last month, the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College received a $10 million gift from an anonymous donor. The college is deep into expanding its arts district on campus and the money will be used to facilitate a two-year renovation and growth project for the museum. The Hood Museum already contains paintings by Perugino, Picasso and Georgia O’Keeffe. The expansion will add more space to the museum as well as create three digital technology classrooms.
We'll likely have to wait a bit before we find out who's behind the money, but this gift has billionaire Dartmouth alum Leon Black's name all over it.
I've written about the private equity firm founder before, particularly his passion for the arts. Black and his Broadway producer wife Debra are one of the biggest art collector couples in the country and have a history of giving to many prominent New York City museums including the MET and MOMA. Black is also a trustee at MOMA and has given over $11 million dollars to the museum.
What's more, Black has supported the arts at his alma mater in the past. Just two years ago, he and Debra made a $48 million gift to Dartmouth for construction of the Black Family Visual Arts Center, another focal point of Dartmouth's revamped arts district. A third building in the district, the Hopkins Center of the Arts, is also undergoing construction. Black has also endowed professorships in Shakespearean Studies at the college.
Black has a penchant for purchasing art anonymously. In 2012, he anonymously purchased Munch's "The Scream" for a whopping $119.9 million only to reveal himself as the buyer a few months later and make the work available for public viewing at MOMA.
In recent years, Black's philanthropy has been a bit unpredictable. His family foundation is all but depleted of assets and his giving has been done on an individual basis. But he's shown a commitment to funding the arts in New York City in the past, and if Black turns out to be the face behind another Dartmouth arts gift, perhaps it's a sign of more things to come.