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An Art Collector Sold A $165M Painting To Spark Changes In The Criminal Justice System

by Penn Collins

June 14, 2017

There’s no doubt that parting with one of the world’s 15 most valuable pieces of art is a daunting proposition. However, in most instances, the millions upon millions of dollars help ease the pain. But when Agnes Gund sold her 1962 Lichtenstein, entitled “Masterpiece,” she did so with something far more noble than a big payday in mind. 

The New York Times recently confirmed that the painting was quietly sold to art collector Steve Cohen for $165 million months ago “for a specific purpose: to create a fund that supports criminal justice reform and seeks to reduce mass incarceration in the United States.”

Over $100 million from the proceeds of the sale will benefit the newly established Art for Justice Fund, an effort to end the epidemic of incarceration in the United States. 

Six of Gund’s 12 grandchildren are African-American, and she tells The New York Times she has grown increasingly concerned about the world they’re due to inherit. “The criminal justice system in its current state—particularly in its treatment of people of color—is unfair and unjust,” she said in an interview. 

Gund hopes this philanthropic demonstration urges other fortunate collectors to sell their prized works to fund Art for Justice. It’s her hope that the fund raises an additional $100 million over the next five years. 

The 78-year-old collector knows that now is the time to leave her mark. “ This is one thing I can do before I die,” she said. “This is what I need to do.”

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