Artist-Endowed Foundation Assets Grew 120 Percent From 2011 to 2015

Artist-Endowed Foundation Assets Grew 120 Percent From 2011 to 2015

Assets owned by foundations created by visual artists in the United States more than doubled between 2011 and 2015, a report from the Aspen Institute's Artist-Endowed Foundations Initiative finds. 

The latest update to the 2010 National Study of Artist-Endowed FoundationsThe Artist as Philanthropist: Study Report Supplement 2018 (215 pages, PDF) found that assets owned by artist-endowed foundations increased to $7.66 billion, from $3.48 billion, during the five-year period, or 120 percent, compared with 40 percent for assets of all U.S. foundations. Based on data from three hundred and ten artist-endowed foundations — out of four hundred and thirty-three identified by the study, 40 percent of which were created in the last fifteen years — the report found that 70 percent of those assets were works of art, up from 57 percent in 2010, while financial assets fell from 38 percent to 27 percent. 

The increase in assets can be attributed in part to a series of major bequests — including those associated with Louise Bourgeois, Helen Frankenthaler, Mike Kelley, LeRoy Neiman, Irving Penn, Robert Rauschenberg, Maurice Sendak, and Cy Twombly — as well as a robust art market that supported significant appreciation in the value of many artists' work. The report also found that the share of assets dedicated for charitable use — used directly to support a foundation's charitable purposes and excluded from the calculation of its annual payout requirement — also increased, to 72 percent of all assets in 2015, from 59 percent in 2010. 

According to the report, contributions, gifts, and grants awarded by artist-endowed foundations increased from $69.99 million in 2010 to $90.17 million in 2015, or 29 percent, compared with 36 percent for all U.S. foundations over the same period. Between 2001 and 2015, however, giving by artist-endowed foundations increased 131 percent, compared with 92 percent for all foundations. In 2015, 67 percent of artist-endowed foundations in the study reported contributions, gifts, and grants, and within that group 12 percent reported total giving of at least $1 million, accounting for 73 percent of all giving by the field. 

The study also found that charitable operating and administrative expenses for artist-endowed foundations grew 42 percent, a trend presumably tied to the growth in art assets and the requisite costs of caring for and deploying artworks as charitable-use assets. 

"The Artist as Philanthropist: Study Report Supplement 2018." Aspen Institute Artist-Endowed Foundations Initiative Report 02/08/2019.