Rauschenberg Foundation Aims to Boost Spending

The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation intends to increase its grantmaking over the next fifteen years and become one of the largest private funders of the visual arts in the United States, the Art Newspaper reports.

The assets of Rauschenberg's estate are being transferred to the foundation, which will grow "slowly and carefully," according to executive director Christy MacLear. The foundation funds individual artists, supports philanthropic ventures, and runs a project space in New York City and an artist residency in Captiva Island, Florida, where Rauschenberg lived until his death in 2008.

Founded by Rauschenberg in 1990 to promote awareness of causes he cared about, including world peace, the environment, and humanitarian issues, the foundation will sell art and real estate to build its endowment to some $350 million; it hopes to award between $15 million and $20 million a year by 2027. Although the foundation owns several works from every period of Rauschenberg's career, the bulk of the endowment will come from the sale of works by other artists that Rauschenberg collected. An initial group of works valued at nearly $40 million, including pieces by Marcel Duchamp, Brice Marden, Ed Ruscha, and Andy Warhol, was consigned to the Gagosian Gallery last year.

Also last year, the foundation launched its Artist as Activist print project and invited Shepard Fairey to focus on an issue of his choice. The work Fairey created was sold to raise funds for the Coalition for the Homeless. In January, the foundation awarded its first round of Artistic Innovation and Collaboration grants, which ranged from $50,000 to $150,000. Additional grant programs will be introduced as the endowment grows. But while the foundation will develop initiatives in arts education and provide support for grassroots artistic exploration, it expects its biggest impact to be created by its funding of the visual arts.

"The rise of artist-endowed foundations will change the landscape of arts funding," said MacLear. "We look at this funding as [being in addition to] governmental, private, or corporate funding. Over the past ten years, the National Endowment for the Arts appropriations ranged from $115 million in 2002 to $146 million in 2012. If you consider the Warhol Foundation contributing $13.5 million, the Dedalus Foundation contributing $3.6 million, and the Rauschenberg Foundation, even in our early years, contributing $2 million — to name just three organizations — then, as this sort of support grows, it will be larger in aggregate than the NEA's contribution."

Cristina Ruiz. "Rauschenberg Foundation Could Outspend Warhol's." Art Newspaper 03/28/2012.