About the Aspen Institute Artist-Endowed Foundations Initiative/AEFI

Strengthening the next generation of artist-endowed foundations


For research purposes, AEFI’S National Study of Artist-Endowed Foundations defines an artist-endowed foundation as a tax-exempt, private foundation created or endowed by a visual artist, the artist’s surviving spouse, or other heirs or beneficiaries to own the artist’s assets for use in furthering charitable and educational activities serving a public benefit. Among assets conveyed to artist-endowed foundations are financial and investment assets, art assets (art collections, archives, libraries, and intellectual property), real property (land, residences, studios, and exhibition facilities), and other types of personal property.

Artist-endowed foundations realize their charitable purposes in a variety of ways, generally with a focus on cultural philanthropy and artistic heritage stewardship. They may make grants to nonprofits and to artists and scholars, and they may steward art collections, operate study centers, conduct scholarship, contribute artwork to museums, manage artist residency facilities, and administer art education programs. Many combine multiple charitable activities.


AEFI’s National Study documented this small but fast-growing field and identified more than 360 foundations, many created in the past two decades. From 2005 to 2010, assets held by artist-endowed foundations grew 44 percent to $3.5 billion, and within that, art assets almost doubled, rising to $2 billion. In the same period, annual charitable disbursements for grants and direct operation of charitable activities (study centers, exhibition programs, art education classes, artist residencies, etc.) increased 60 percent, to $132 million. More than 80 percent of grantmaking focused on the arts, signaling an important potential to expand the country’s cultural philanthropy resources. Even as foundations maintain a robust distribution of artworks via charitable gifts and sales, significant new bequests, including those of Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Louise Bourgeois and Helen Frankenthaler, to name a few, are fueling exponential growth, with the field’s aggregate assets on track to more than double in value between 2010 and 2015.


Artist-Endowed Foundation Initiative Activities that now comprise AEFI’s principal research component—the National Study of Artist-Endowed Foundations—were initiated in 2007 with the support of a donor consortium led by the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, and Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and including major arts funders such as the Ford Foundation and Getty Foundation. These donors realized the potential of this young field to substantially expand the nation’s cultural philanthropy resources. They also recognized the field’s growing role in artistic heritage stewardship. Responding to numerous requests for information from persons considering or charged with foundation creation, and understanding the complexity of the task, they determined that a project to document and disseminate effective practices was in order.

As it has been since the effort’s inception, AEFI’s mission is to help the next generation of artist-endowed foundations make the most of their founders’ generosity in service to a charitable purpose. It aims to strengthen this next generation, and optimize its charitable capacity, by filling the significant information gap facing individuals involved in creating, leading, governing and advising foundations. By shortening the steep learning curve inherent in these distinctively endowed entities, AEFI helps ensure that charitable resources can be spent on charitable purposes, not costly lessons. To this end, AEFI conducts ongoing programs to develop and share knowledge with key audiences. These programs and their participants include:

ŸResearch and Publications—National Study of Artist-Endowed Foundations, regular Study Report Supplements and Updates, briefing papers on critical issues, and targeted publications, such as A Reading Guide to the Study Report for Artists and Their Family Members. Artists, artists’ families, associates and advisors, foundation leaders, policymakers, journalists, scholars, educators and students use these resources.

ŸKnowledge Sharing Events—Workshops for foundation creators, including artists and their spouses/partners, and artists’ surviving spouses and heirs; briefing sessions for foundation advisors, including attorneys, art dealers, investment advisors, and accountants, hosted by local and national professional associations; and public panel discussions for members of the art, museum, philanthropy, education and media fields, and for interested public audiences, hosted by leading cultural institutions, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts, Chicago, and the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, among others.

Leadership Programs—Seminar on Strategy for Artist-Endowed Foundation Leaders, assisting the professional development of new foundation leaders, and Artist-Endowed Foundation Leadership Forum, collaborating with foundation leaders, field experts, and thought leaders to examine and discuss critical issues and important innovations in policy and practice that are influencing the field.


Honorary Chair:

Charles C. Bergman, Chairman & CEO, The Pollock-Krasner Foundation


Alberta Arthurs, Former Director, Arts & Humanities, The Rockefeller Foundation

Richard Calvocoressi, Former Director, Henry Moore Foundation

Michelle Elligott, Chief of Archives, The Museum of Modern Art

Ruth Fine, Former Curator of Special Projects in Modern Art, National Gallery of Art

Marion R. Fremont-Smith, Senior Research Fellow, Hauser Institute for Civil Society, Harvard Kennedy School

Lowery Stokes Sims, Curator Emerita, Museum of Art and Design

Marc-André Renold, Director, Art-Law Centre, University of Geneva, CH

Aida Rodriguez, Professor of Professional Practice, Milano School of International Affairs, Management & Urban Policy, New School

Stephen K. Urice, Professor of Law, University of Miami School of Law


Christine J. Vincent, Project Director, Artist-Endowed Foundations Initiative/AEFI

Tracey Rutnik, Deputy Director for Research and Policy, Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation

Contact the Artist-Endowed Foundations Initiative/AEFI at:

Artist-Endowed Foundations Initiative/AEFI
The Aspen Institute
One Dupont Circle, NW
Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 736-2501 (phone)