As 2020 draws to an end, the Courtauld Institute of Art in London has its eyes on next year, when it will reopen after a three-year renovation, with a major gift from one of the world’s top collectors.
Through his family foundation, Leonard Blavatnik, who has ranked on ARTnews’s Top 200 Collectors list each year since 2013, has donated £10 million (about $13.5 million) to the institute’s Courtauld Connects campaign, which, in addition to overhauling its galleries within Somerset House, where it has been housed since 1989, has also refurbished its education and social spaces. Blavatnik’s donation is part of the institute’s Courtauld Connects campaign, which in addition to overhauling its galleries within Somerset House, where it has been housed since 1989, but also for its education and social spaces.
“The opening of the Courtauld Gallery will be a cultural highlight of 2021, bringing our unique collection back to public display,” Lord Browne of Madingley, the Courtauld’s chairman, said in a statement. “It is the first step in a contemporary transformation of The Courtauld, at a time when we are more aware than ever of the contribution of the arts to our wellbeing and the economy.”
Based in London and New York, Blavatnik, who collects modern and contemporary art, is a Ukrainian-born billionaire. He first made his fortune in aluminum and energy companies but has also made high-profile investments in Warner Music, Spotify, Facebook, and the Broadway musical Hamilton.
This donation is not Blavatnik’s first major one in the United Kingdom. In 2017, he donated some £50 million to Tate Modern’s expansion, for which the museum named a wing after him. And he gave the Victoria & Albert Museum £5 million in 2016. (In 2017, the Guardian reported that Blavatnik had donated $1 million to Donald Trump’s inauguration committee, which a spokesperson confirmed.)
Opening in late 2021, the Blavatnik Fine Rooms, which were originally designed for England’s Royal Academy of Art, Royal Society, and Society of Antiquaries, will exhibit a range of art from the museum’s collection, from the Renaissance to the 18th centur, with paintings and the decorative arts represented. Among the works planned to be shown there are Botticelli’s Trinity with Saints altarpiece (1491–94), Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Adam and Eve (1526), Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Landscape with a flight into Egypt (1563), Gainsborough’s Portrait of Margaret Gainsborough (ca. 1778), and Rubens’s The Family of Jan Bruegel the Elder (1613–15) and The Descent From The Cross (1611–13).
“The transformation of the Courtauld would not be possible without the support of our donors,” Deborah Swallow, the Courtauld’s director, said in a statement. “The Blavatnik Fine Rooms will be a particular highlight of the new Courtauld Gallery, and this contribution has been vital in allowing us to make this exquisite and highly significant set of rooms more beautiful and accessible than ever before.”