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Ethan Wagner and Thea Westreich Wagner
Ethan Wagner and Thea Westreich Wagner


Mar. 16, 2012

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New York collectors Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner have announced a major donation of 800 artworks to the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Centre Pompidou, both of which will hold exhibitions to display the new holdings in 2015-16.

“For many years now we’ve collected with the idea of eventually donating our collection,” said Westreich Wagner and Wagner in a joint statement. “The combination of the Whitney and the Pompidou provides the ideal permanent home for the artists we’ve collected and whom we so deeply admire.”

Though she started out as a collector, in the late 1980s Westreich launched an art-consulting firm that became increasingly influential. She championed many of today’s top artists at the beginning of their careers, such as Sherrie Levine and Christopher Wool. Her clients at the time included many trustees of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, when it was in its art-buying stage under then-director David Ross. In 2004 she was caught up in Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau’s investigation of sales-tax avoidance in the New York art industry, and paid back taxes of approximately $500,000 plus a fine of $250,000.

The Whitney, which is scheduled to move into its new home near the High Line in 2015, is slated to receive about 500 works from 70 American artists, with an emphasis on photography and 1980s names like Wool, Jeff Koons and Richard Prince.

The remaining 300 works by 27 international artists is headed to the Pompidou, where modern-art director Alfred Pacquement pointed out that most of the works being donated are by artists that are not currently in the museum’s collection.

The Pompidou donation is of special note because, as the New York Times points out, few collectors donate to institutions in France, which doesn’t offer tax incentives like in the U.S.

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