The Art Institute of Chicago has received a cash gift of approximately $70 million combined from the Duchossois and Levy families.
Member of the museum’s board of trustees, Janet Duchossois, and her husband donated $50 million. The chair of the museum, Robert Levy, and his wife donated an additional $20 million, making for a total of $70 million in donations to the museum.
Duchossois’s gift is said to be the largest publicly announced cash gift to the Art Institute in the institution’s history.
Unlike Levy’s cash gift, which is earmarked for operations and acquisitions specifically, Duchossois’s gift is not earmarked, meaning the institute can use the money for whatever they see fit.
Since the plentiful donations, there has been talk in the museum of possibly adding on a new building for exhibiting Asian artwork specifically.
What constitutes a museum gift can come in a variety of different forms.
Originally, the highest cash gift the Art Institute had received was $35 million in 2016, but the highest gift ever given to the institute was a donation of 40 contemporary pieces, nine of which were works of Andy Warhol, which came to an astonishing estimated total value of over $400 million.
A museum is only as good as what it has to show, so art donations and traveling exhibits can prove as beneficial for revenue as any direct income. Most of what the museum receives in direct income is spent in the upkeep and development of the museum and the traveling exhibits they acquire.
For example, the last major construction project done in the Art Institute was the modern art wing in 2009, which brought an extra 264,000 square feet to the museum’s interior in exchange for a brow-raising $283 million.
Yet for a museum with as much grandeur and notability as the Art Institute of Chicago, a pricey project is just a part of the museum’s continual effort to remain as appealing as possible.
Founded in 1879 and one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States, the Art Institute has to make financial sacrifices in the millions if they want to keep bringing in over one and a half million visitors annually.
Aside from also having one of the largest art history and architecture libraries in the nation, known as the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, the museum has its own conservation science department that is constantly putting out new research in the field.
Research is a very common, if not standard, way that museums continue to earn funding and make a profit outside their everyday charges for admission and products.
Knowing that the general admission cost for one adult is $25 and that the museum gets at least one and a half million visitors a year, the math for the profits of visitor admission alone is only $37 and a half million, which is barely over a tenth of the cost for the 2009 contemporary art wing.
In the greater scheme of things, $70 million may no longer seem all that helpful; but when it’s from only one or two families and goes to an institute that needs as much help as it can get, anything is welcomed!
Make sure you and your friends do your part to keep museums like the Art Institute going by visiting them and buying tickets. No matter what museum you’re going to, don’t feel ashamed to ask if they offer a student discount.