It doesn't always follow that billionaires with huge art collections are also big into arts philanthropy. But there sure does seem to be a pattern if you think about big arts philanthropists like Eli Broad, or the billionaire collector/philanthropist Henry Kravis, whom I recently wrote about here.
Leon Black, the 63-year old buyouts man and owner of Apollo Global Management, has a similar story. Black has a $5.4 billion fortune and an elaborate art collection. In 2012, he purchased one of four existing versions of Munch's "The Scream" for $119.9 million, which, at the time, was the highest price ever paid for a work of art at an auction. A few months later, he put the painting up in MOMA for six months for public viewing. He's also given big to the arts in the past and his speeches on giving have fallen in line with his actions. So far so good.
Unlike Kravis, however, Black's philanthropic record doesn't leave much of a paper trail, at least as of late. Part of this is because Black's foundation, the Leon Black Family Foundation, isn't used to move his biggest gifts, and its tax returns show giving of just $1 million in 2012 and $500,000 in 2011. When Black gives, he gives direct to the source. So where has his money gone in recent years?
Well, Black is a trustee at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). In addition to making "The Scream" available to the public, he's given at least $11.45 million to the museum. He's also a trustee of Asia Society and the Jewish Museum. In 2012, Black acquired Phaidon Press, a leading publisher of fine arts books and has bold plans for "geographic expansion." Here, Black philanthropy also seems to be fueled by practical business sense as well.
Black, an alumnus of Dartmouth College, has also been deep into bolstering the arts at his alma mater. He's endowed professorships in Shakespearean Studies at the college. Black made a $48 million gift to Dartmouth for construction of the Black Family Visual Arts Center, a center that has allowed film, media studies and studio arts students all to study under "the same roof." The center opened in fall of 2012.
Where does Black go from here? It's tough to say. However, when Black speaks, he always appears to say the right things. At the Forbes 400 summit on philanthropy, for instance, Black said, "Especially in the world today where science rightfully is so important in terms of technology, innovation, telecom, internet, fighting diseases, I think it’s equally important that poetry and painting have their share of support."
Black comes from an arts family. His father took him to England to see Stratford Shakespeare Festival every year and his mother was a painter. What's more, Black's wife Debra is a Broadway producer. Speaking of Debra Black, a lot of the Black family's philanthropy seems to have shifted when she was diagnosed with melanoma. Fortunately, the cancer was caught early enough that Debra has gone into remission. That hasn't stopped the Blacks from founding the Melanoma Research Alliance and taking a leadership role in this area.
Black's foundation has also made substantial gifts to the Tony Blair Foundation and also the Harlem Village Academies, a charter school network.
But arts is clearly Leon Black's deepest passion. And, as with many billionaires in finance, the most important thing to keep in mind is just how little Black has given away compared to the size of his fortune. He is still very involved in making money. Things are really going to get interesting when his focus shifts to giving it away.