Art Collector Looking to Fund Criminal Justice Reform Efforts

June 14, 2017 by


One of the world’s fifteen most expensive pieces of art recently sold for $165 million – and $100 million of the proceeds are going to start a criminal justice reform fund.

Agnes Gund – an art collector, philanthropist, and president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art – sold the painting created by Roy Lichtenstein in an effort to “create a fund that supports criminal justice reform and seeks to reduce mass incarceration in the United States.”

Most of the money from the sale will go to the newly created Art For Justice Fund, which will be co-managed by the Rockefeller Philanthropy Partners and the Ford Foundation.

In a release debuting the new project, the Ford Foundation said:

“Few times in our nation’s history have we witnessed a domestic crisis the size and scope of mass incarceration, and few times have we seen a philanthropist more committed to social justice than Agnes Gund.”

The release went on to discuss how Agnes, whom they call Aggie, decided to get involved in the area of criminal justice reform after meeting with experts and activists like Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow; Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative; and Laura Arnold of the John and Laura Arnold Foundation.

“Rather than reinventing the wheel, or splitting attention and resources, Aggie has chosen to enhance existing efforts, aligning her resources with other philanthropies that have been funding criminal justice reform for years.”

Gund initially sold her art to encourage fellow art collectors to do the same and contribute to the effort as well. The project aims to raise another $100 million in the near-term and has commitments from collectors and philanthropists from New York to Los Angeles.

The fund plans to issue grants for groups and individuals working on various issues within the criminal justice reform movement, with the goal of ending mass incarceration.


About the Author

Charles operates the Houston office for Empower Texans/Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.