The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., is using a $10 million gift from the family of a former trustee to fund the acquisition of works by women artists.
The money comes from the relatives of Vicki Sant, the late collector who became the museum’s first female president in 2003. It will now be put toward addressing historical gaps in the museum’s collection.
Sant was a member of the museum’s board from 2000 until her death in 2018. She served as chair of the board from 2003 to 2014.
In a statement, the museum’s director, Kaywin Feldman, said the new endowment fund, which will be distributed under the official title Victoria P. Sant Fund for Women Artists, will be used to acquire “masterpieces.”
Works purchased through the fund will build on recent acquisitions of works by women artists, including a portrait painting and a sculpture by Lavinia Fontana and Luisa Roldán, respectively. The former, produced in the 16th century portrays the Italian musician Lucia Bonasoni Garzoni in a seated pose; the latter, dated from the 17th century, is a figurine depicting the Virgin Mary and Christ as a child.
Together with her husband Roger, who founded the AES corporation, Sant accumulated a collection centered around Post-Impressionists like Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, as well as Nabis artists like Maurice Denis. The Sants, who gifted an acquisition fund for 19th-century paintings to the NGA, appeared on the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors list.
The endowment comes following as $50 million in art collected by the couple is set to be sold at Christie’s this fall.
The news also comes as the NGA pushes to diversify its holdings. The museum has reported that, in the last two years, 50 percent of the works it acquired were by artists of color, up from the 12.6 percent in the two-year period prior to that one. Works by women artists comprised 35.5 percent of its acquisitions this year, up from the 20.3 percent during the two years prior.
Correction, 11/3/22, 8:20 a.m.: A previous version of this post misstated details about the acquisitions of works by Lavinia Fontana and Luisa Roldán. Those pieces were acquired by the museum prior to the fund, rather than through it.