America’s Top Arts Donor? Try David H. Koch


The Chronicle of Philanthropy just came out with its new study of donors: How America Gives. The data shows giving by state, and highlights key findings including: “Middle-class Amer¬≠i¬≠cans give a far bigger share of their discretionary income to charities than the rich;” rich people who live in wealthy neighborhoods give less than the rich abiding in diverse areas; red states give more than blue states, and tax incentives matter in determining how much money donors give.

David H. Koch

But perhaps the most eye-catching item in the multi-faceted study is the top arts donor among the nation’s top 50 givers. It’s David H. Koch, one of the two conservative Koch brothers who Democrats have blasted for attempting to buy national elections by flooding campaigns with money.

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The top three donors of 2012 spread their largess among areas other than the arts. Then comes David Koch of New York in fourth place, providing $60 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MOMA) in Manhattan, listed in the category museums and libraries. But hold it! Koch appears again as No. 17, again under museums and libraries, specifically giving $35 million to the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History in Washington. He ranks first among six cultural donors in the top 50 philanthropists.

MOMA appeared recently in CFR’s Peculiar Progressive column “Battling Hitler’s Ghost in Claiming Nazi-Era Art.” The U.S. Supreme Court last September refused to consider claims from artist George Grosz’s heirs for three of the Expressionist master’s paintings at MOMA. The lower court had ruled that the statute of limitations had passed for making such claims. The same ruling has applied to other court cases in both Europe and America where plaintiffs have attempted to reclaim Nazi-era art.

Wikipedia cites both Condé Nast and New York magazine in reporting of Koch:

He is a major patron of the arts and had contributed to several charities, including Lincoln Center, Sloan Kettering, a fertility clinic at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and the American Museum of Natural History‘s David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing. The New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, home of the New York City Opera and New York City Ballet was renamed the David H. Koch Theater in 2008 following a gift of 100 million dollars for the renovation of the theater. Condé Nast Portfolio described him as “one of the most generous but low-key philanthropists in America.” He and his brother Charles have also donated to political advocacy groups, including Americans for Prosperity.

It’s Americans for Prosperity that has garnered the ire of the Democratic Party and the Obama White House because of playing a major role in 2010 by giving Republicans control of the House of Representatives. The organization ran millions of dollars in ads across the country opposing Democratic candidates.

According to “As of August 13th, Americans for Prosperity spent an estimated $18 million on ads to influence the 2012 presidential election. For a more detailed summary of AFP’s 2012 election activities, see: Americans for Prosperity in the 2012 Election.”

The other top cultural donors:

Brooke Astor

Vance E. Kondon and Elisabeth Giesberger rank as 2012’s second top arts donor, providing a $40 million bequest to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and San Diego Museum of Art.

Lenfest Foundations (H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest) ranks third, giving $40 million to the American Revolution Center museum (Philadelphia).

The late legendary philanthropist Brooke Russell Astor takes fourth by providing a $20 million bequest to MOMA, and another $15 million to the New York Public Library.

Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation (Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg) holds fifth place with $30 million to the Motion Picture & Television Fund (Woodland Hills, Calif.).

Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson have given $10 million to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, taking sixth place in cultural donations for the year.