When you have lots of valuable art, you can negotiate how it's treated when you sell it. Toronto collector and curator Ydessa Hendeles has sold 144 works of contemporary art to the private museum of a U.S. billionaire, on condition that the pieces be shown together as a collection with its own catalogue.
Hendeles, who closed her private art foundation last fall, cut the deal with Glenstone, a museum owned and run by Mitchell Rales and his wife Emily on a former hunting estate near their home in Potomac, Md. Glenstone, which opened in 2006, is in the midst of an ambitious expansion that will add 14,000 square meters of space to the museum by 2016.
"These particular pieces will stay together as what I think of as a post-Holocaust document," Hendeles said in an e-mailed statement. "The works will be celebrated, as will my curating of them."
Hendeles's year-long exhibitions at her downtown gallery were renowned for their intense focus, and willingness to combine art by major contemporary figures with found objects selected by the curator. Hendeles bought all the art she showed, stored it when each show was over, and is gradually finding public homes for it. She has already placed a $12-million gathering of works at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, "and more will be donated," she said. Even after the Glenstone transaction, her foundation retains 220 pieces of contemporary art and 1,020 photographs.
"Artists want their work to be seen," Hendeles said, calling the Glenstone sale "an ideal solution .… No [public] museum could accommodate the scale of what I accumulated in my passionate commitment to the exhibition program here over the past 25 years."
Emily Rales, a career curator who is Glenstone's director, told The New York Times that the Hendeles acquisition will give the museum further breadth in the work of artists it already collects, and add new names to its roster, including Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Holzer and Hanne Darboven. Glenstone currently holds about 800 works, on view by appointment only. The museum is about an hour's drive from downtown Washington.
Mitchell Rales, whose father was raised in an orphanage and made a fortune in building supplies, is worth $3.9-billion (U.S.), according to Forbes magazine. He is co-founder of Danaher, a conglomerate with interests in manufacturing and technology.