MoMA announced that it will acquire works of contemporary art from billionaire Steven A. Cohen whose hedge fund company SAC Capital Advisors is currently under investigation. The promised works by the longtime collector include paintings by Martin Kippenberger, Ed Ruscha, and a sculpture by Cy Twombly.
Cohen’s company has not been lawfully charged in the government’s insider trading inquiry, so for the moment, there’s no wrongdoing. However, if Cohen faces conviction, Cohen’s tax-deductible donation might reflect poorly on the museum.
This isn’t the first time that a museum has had to deal with a troubled donation. In fact, when you’re dealing with the uber-wealthy, it seems par for the course.
The Whitney had gone through a similar situation in the early 2000s, when Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski, made a $4.5 million donation in the midst of an investigation. He was charged, then convicted of stealing over $100 million from within his company.
The Whitney kept the donation, and given the support that kind of money offers, that decision isn’t a surprise.