The Artist-Endowed Foundation Field is Experiencing Transformational Growth, Aspen Institute Institute Research Reveals

February 28, 2019

Assets held by artist-endowed philanthropies have more than doubled in value to $7.66 billion in five years

Contact: Christine J. Vincent
Project Director, The Aspen Institute
207 653 3922 |

Washington, DC The Aspen Institute Artist-Endowed Foundations Initiative (AEFI) announces the release of a new publication featuring groundbreaking findings about the emerging field of private foundations created in the US by visual artists. Study Report Supplement 2018 presents updated findings of the National Study of Artist-Endowed Foundations, AEFI’s flagship research program that tracks the field’s development at five-year intervals. View the publication here:

Key Research Findings

  • The value of artist-endowed foundation assets more than doubled in the five-year period from 2011 through 2015, rising 120 percent to $7.66 billion from $3.48 billion. In comparison, among foundations nationally assets grew 40 percent in that period.
  • Art assets now account for more than two-thirds of the field’s assets overall. In 2015, artist-endowed foundations reported aggregate assets of $7.66 billion, with $5.37 billion in art assets (70 percent). In 2010, they reported aggregate assets of $3.48 billion, with $1.99 billion in art assets (57 percent).
  • Giving by artist-endowed foundations rose 131 percent to $90.17 million in the 15-year period beginning in 2001, in contrast to a 92 percent increase in giving for foundations nationally in that period.
  • The field’s extraordinary growth has been fueled by major bequests to established foundations associated with Louise Bourgeois, Helen Frankenthaler, Mike Kelley, LeRoy Neiman, Irving Penn, Robert Rauschenberg, Maurice Sendak, and Cy Twombly, among others. Significant appreciation to existing art holdings is also a factor, such as to those of the Joan Mitchell Foundation, The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Norman Rockwell Art Collection Trust, and The Richard Avedon Foundation.
  • The focus of the field’s grantmaking interests is squarely on the arts, which represents 79 percent of all giving. Reflecting the field’s role as a conduit for the posthumous transfer of artists’ works to public collections held by museums and universities, grantmaking with artworks remains an important aspect of that focus.
  • Charitable operating and administrative expenses (costs to administer grantmaking programs and operate artist residencies, exhibition programs, art education programs, study centers, house museums, etc.) rose 405 percent to $88 million in the 15-year period beginning in 2001, likely reflecting rising costs to care for and deploy significantly expanding art holdings.
  • Ten percent of artist-endowed foundations are large foundations, those with $50 million or more in assets, in comparison to foundations nationally, of which only two percent are in this top category. The number of large artist-endowed foundations has grown exponentially in the 20 years between 1995, when there were just two, and 2015, when there were 31.
  • To date, the Study has identified 433 artist-endowed foundations of which 310 had 2015 data available for analysis. More than 40 percent of all artist-endowed foundations were created in the last decade and a half.
  • Although representing only a small portion of all private foundations in the US, by virtue of their strong focus in the arts and direct charitable activities involving their art assets, artist-endowed foundations are an increasingly influential force shaping cultural philanthropy and stewarding the country’s artistic heritage.

Said Ruth E. Fine, Chair of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation and Honorary Chair, AEFI Advisors, “The landscape of our society in all quarters is changing radically, quickly. These new findings confirm that the artist-endowed foundation field is keeping pace and in some cases is at the forefront of that change. AEFI’s research and publications are essential resources to support the field in this vital work, as the cultural importance and philanthropic potential of artists’ assets are being more fully grasped.”


The Study’s Initial findings were released in 2010 as the two-volume Study Report of the National Study of Artist-Endowed Foundations, and updated subsequently in Study Report Supplement 2013. Since then, the artist-endowed foundation field has continued to grow apace. Drawing on new data, Study Report Supplement 2018 details this growth, analyzes factors shaping it, and explores ramifications for foundation practice. Appendices list identified foundations and present data profiles of those reporting assets of $1 million or more.

A new addition to the collected briefing papers commissioned by the Study examines a key issue that will impact foundation practice—disclaiming artists’ estate assets. New additions to the descriptive survey summarizing estate planning literature pertaining to visual artists highlight three recent publications. Study Supplement 2018, along with the initial two-volume Study Report and Supplement 2013, can be accessed at

The Study is led by Christine J. Vincent, AEFI Project Director, former Ford Foundation deputy director for Arts and Culture and former president, Maine College of Art. AEFI’s research and publication activities are supported by the AEFI Donor Consortium, led by The Jay DeFeo Foundation, Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

The Aspen Institute Artist-Endowed Foundations Initiative/AEFI, an ongoing initiative of the Institute’s Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation, conducts research, publication, and education programs to strengthen the emerging artist-endowed foundation field’s charitable impact in cultural philanthropy and art stewardship.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners.


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