February 15, 2005
Museum of Fine Arts hits a gusher

The estate of oil heiress Caroline Wiess Law will be donating upwards of $400 million to Houston's Museum of Fine Arts.

When all of Law's assets are sold and the legal proceedings conclude, possibly by the end of this year, the museum could net between $400 million and $450 million, said director Peter Marzio.

"In recent history, this would be one of the biggest, if not the biggest cash gifts to an art museum," said Mimi Gaudieri, executive director, Association of Art Museum Directors in New York. "This money will help make Houston one of the most important museums in terms of programming and serving the public."

Law's giving would rank as No. 1 in non-art donations to museums on a list compiled by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which tracks charitable donations of $50 million and more.


Soon after Law died in 2003 on Christmas Eve and her 85th birthday, her estate gave the museum Law's contemporary art collection valued at between $60 million and $85 million. The 55 major works include pieces by Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro.

The estate also distributed $25 million checks each to the museum, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

What was not mentioned in the museum's announcement about that gift was that Law named the museum the residual beneficiary of her estate. Anything not specifically given to a person or institution was to go to the museum, including all of the assets of her foundation, which is valued at $18 million and is scheduled to be dissolved by the end of the year.

The endowment also allows the museum to use less of the endowment's income every year to run the fine arts museum and the central administration of an arts organization that also operates the Glassell School of Art and the decorative arts museums at Rienzi and Bayou Bend.

Pretty darned impressive.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 15, 2005 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack

Does that list include Getty and Guggenheim?

I'm absolutely floored. In fact, if I weren't ill today, I'd take a trip over to the museum district and check it out for my annual trip there.

Posted by: Laurence Simon on February 15, 2005 11:08 AM

Dang. Why don't people with that kind of money ever adopt me?

Posted by: Sue on February 16, 2005 6:38 AM