Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City has announced that it has reached an agreement with the family of Avery Fisher to enable the renaming of Avery Fisher Hall.
The children of the late philanthropist, whose $10 million endowment gift in 1973 has funded improvements at the New York Philharmonic's home over the years, agreed to relinquish the name so that the philharmonic and Lincoln Center can offer the naming rights in exchange for a large gift that will be applied to a major renovation of the hall. In 2002, the Fisher family threatened legal action if Lincoln Center officials ever decided to rebuild or renovate the venue under a different name. Under the agreement announced this week, a Fisher family member will serve on the advisory board of the Lincoln Center Hall of Fame — which will be housed in the renovated venue and into which Fisher will be inducted with the first class of honorees — as well as on the selection committee for Avery Fisher Classical Music Wing inductees. The lobby of the renovated hall also will feature tributes to Avery Fisher and Avery Fisher Prize winners, while the philanthropist's personal, business, and Artist Program archives will be made available to Lincon Center for use in exhibits and programming. Renovation work is expected to get under way in 2019 and cost at least $500 million.
According to the New York Times, Lincoln Center is paying the Fisher family $15 million for permission to remove the Fisher name from the concert hall, with the funds coming from a line of credit that ultimately will be covered by the new naming gift. The family told the Times that it had not determined how the money will be distributed.
"This unties the Gordian knot," Katherine G. Farley, Lincoln Center's board chair, said of the agreement. Farley added that it was too early in the process to discuss whose name might replace Fisher's or what the price tag might be. In recent years, oil-and-gas billionaire David H. Koch and Wall Street financier Stephen A. Schwarzman have given $100 million gifts to the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center and the New York Public Library, respectively, in return for naming rights.
"We are committed to preserving the future of classical music in New York City and recognize that Avery Fisher Hall must be rebuilt in order to preserve what we treasure," said Nancy Fisher, Charles Avery Fisher, and Barbara Fisher Snow, speaking for the Fisher family. "While our family enjoyed over forty years of our father's gift being highly visible, it is now time to relinquish that spotlight and allow growth and change at Lincoln Center. We are very pleased with Lincoln Center's plans to maintain Avery Fisher's legacy, exemplified by his great love for classical music and musicians."