Geffen Gives $100 Million to Museum of Modern Art for Expansion

  • Galleries will be named after the entertainment mogul
  • `I love the museum and its collection,' he says of MoMA

Billionaire entertainment mogul David Geffen donated $100 million to the Museum of Modern Art in New York for its latest renovation and expansion, the largest gift in the project’s capital campaign.

Three floors of new galleries, created as part of an expansion into the tower being constructed to the west of the museum at 53 West 53rd St., will be named the David Geffen Wing, MoMA said Thursday in a statement. The fourth-floor suite of galleries in the current building also will be named after him, according to the museum.

The entire project is expected to cost about $400 million for new construction and other costs, plus as much as $45 million for renovations to existing structures, MoMA said. Geffen’s gift will be paid over time but “it’s a rapid payout,” Marie-Josee Kravis, president of MoMA’s board of trustees, said in a phone interview.

Regular Visitor

Geffen, 73, said in a phone interview that he first visited MoMA 53 years ago, when he worked in the mail room at talent firm William Morris Agency.

“My friends and I went to MoMA on our lunch break,” said Geffen, who was born in Brooklyn, New York. “I’ve been going there regularly since I was 20 years old. I love the museum and its collection.”

The project is being done in phases and is expected to be completed in 2019 or 2020. MoMA said its gallery space will increase by 30 percent to 174,000-square-feet.

“He’s always been interested in what we collect and in our programs, and he’s been a friend of MoMA,” Kravis said about Geffen. “It’s not like this came out of the blue. He seemed the perfect partner for us. We approached him and he’s very decisive. He made a quick decision.”

Other Gifts

Last year, Geffen announced plans to donate $100 million to renovate and rename Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center -- home to the New York Philharmonic. It’s now called David Geffen Hall. Geffen has previously made large gifts to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He’s given more than $400 million to the University of California, Los Angeles for a variety of programs.

Geffen has a net worth of $6.8 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He’s a longtime art collector who had bought masterpieces by Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns and Willem de Kooning, among others. Unlike many new collectors, Geffen said he didn’t work with an art adviser.

‘Advised Myself’

“I advised myself,” he said. “I developed these instincts while I was coming to MoMA.”

The rising value of art has fueled another passion: philanthropy. The collection is part of his foundation, and the works will either be donated or sold to benefit his favorite causes -- education, culture and medicine, he said.

“It never occurred to me that these paintings would become as valuable as they have become,” he said.

Last fall, Geffen’s foundation sold a Pollock painting and one by de Kooning for about $500 million to billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin in one of the largest art deals ever. Geffen’s art collection was valued at $2.3 billion before the transaction.

“He has one of the best postwar collections in private hands, by far,” Kravis said. “He has a very good eye and he’s very informed.”