Jurassic Arts: Behind a Billionaire's Recent Dinosaur-Related Give

After the Kenneth & Anne Griffin Foundation folded—a victim of its namesakes' divorce—we wondered where Ken's philanthropy would go as he struck out on his own.

This hedge funder is exactly the kind of philanthropist we keep tabs on, given that he's still young (47), incredibly wealthy ($7.5 billion), and already has a long history of major gifts. Griffin's philanthropy can only get more interesting going forward, right? 

The latest phase materialized back in January when Griffin gave what amounted to one of the largest monetary gifts in the history of the Museum of Modern Art—a $40 million unrestricted donation. That doozy sent the emphatic message that semantics and nomenclature aside, Griffin remains committed to supporting the arts.


Now comes his follow-up act—similar in theme, smaller in scope, and earmarked for a topic we can all agree on: dinosaurs, of course.

The Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund donated $5.5 million to Chicago's Field Museum to create a new display on Antarctic dinosaurs. The new Antarctic Dinosaurs exhibit will open in the summer of 2018 and run through January 2019. After that, it'll hit the road, setting up shop at museums across North America.

The gift marks another impressive windfall for the Field Museum. A little over a year ago we wrote a piece looking at the museum's formidable fundraising apparatus which, at the time, racked up $70 million towards an audacious $250 million capital campaign. The museum just keeps rolling along.

As for Griffin's gift, we actually find it rather unique for its subtlety and quaintness. Subtle because we've been conditioned lately to assume that all billionaire arts gifts are of the eye-popping and Earth-shattering David Geffen or Alice Walton variety. Not true.

And quaint because, well, a billionaire hedge fund manager is bankrolling an exhibit on dinosaurs.

The exhibit's educational programming will include an immersive educational video game and a multimedia Hamilton-esque educator toolkit. Animated, 3D objects and specimens will "invite the public to go back in time" to an era where prehistoric giants roamed the earth without the benefits of compounded interest.

Griffin's gift will underwrite the exhibit and its educational components, though not travel expenses, thereby underlining our commentary about quaintness: It's refreshing (and somewhat rare) to see this kind of in-the-weeds, program-oriented giving from billionaire hedge fund managers.

Then again, Griffin's recent gift wasn't entirely unexpected (unlike, say, a cataclysmic meteor that killed off most life on the planet 66 million years ago). Back in 2006, he donated $5 million to open the Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet at the Field Museum, an exhibit that shows dinosaurs' roles in evolution and environmental change.

"We are delighted by Ken's generous investment," said Richard Lariviere, Field Museum CEO. "Over the past 15 years, Ken has been an invaluable partner in our mission to engage and education the public, giving more than $10.5 million to the museum."