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A philanthropist and developer of hotels and real estate is donating gifts totaling $325m in value to help create a new art museum at Seattle University. It is said to be the largest gift of art ever made to a US university.

Richard Hedreen is gifting the university all of the more than 200 works in his and his late wife Elizabeth “Betty” Ann Petri Hedreen’s collection, spanning the 15th to the 21st century—including pieces by Titian, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, Cecily Brown, Rashid Johnson, Amy Sherald and more; the gifted works are said to be worth around $300m. Hedreen is also donating $25m in seed money toward the creation of the Seattle University Museum of Art, where the donated works will form the core of the collection.

Élisabeth Louise Vigée LeBrun, Portrait of the Duc de Riviere, 1828.

While Richard attended crosstown rival, the University of Washington, his wife was a student at Seattle University when they first met and together they have been major supporters of the institution for decades. The Hedreens were the lead donors in the creation of a chapel designed by architect Steven Holl, which was inaugurated in 1997, and they co-chaired the fundraising efforts to build the campus’s Lee Center for the Arts—whose exhibition space, the Hedreen Gallery, is named in their honour. They had previously donated many works to the university, including prominent outdoor sculptures by James Rosati and Joel Shapiro. Betty died in 2022.

“Betty and I always felt that we were custodians of the artworks we acquired, holding them in trust for a larger purpose. The Jesuits place a special focus on the arts and humanities, including art history, and that has long been reflected in Seattle University’s Jesuit education and its connections to the Seattle arts community. My goal is to keep the collection together in the new Seattle University Museum of Art, which will have a profound and lasting impact on students and faculty.”

The gifted works include historic works by Giovanni Toscani, Jacopo Carruci Pontormo, Vigée LeBrun, Thomas Gainsborough and Gustave Courbet. The collection is also rich in post-war American artists including Roy Licthenstein, Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, De Kooning and Robert Indiana. The Hedreens collected several artists in depth, including Lucian Freud (etchings spanning three decades are being gifted) and Cecily Brown (six paintings in all). Also included are works by many giants of 20th-century photography, among them Henri Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn and Berenice Abbott. Contemporary pieces in the gift include major canvases by Johnson and Sherald, plus works by Vik Muniz, Anna Weyant and others.

Cecily Brown, Untitled (Shipwreck), 2017.

“In a single magnificent gesture, Dick Hedreen has provided Seattle University with the world-class holdings for a teaching museum that will span centuries of art history and spark learning and discussion across the entire curriculum,” Seattle University’s president, Eduardo Peñalver, said in a statement. “Just as important, this new museum will serve as a bridge between our campus and the city, expanding access to the arts for traditionally underserved communities and helping us realise our mission of educating the whole person and empowering leaders for a just and humane world.”

Seattle University is a private, Jesuit Catholic institution that was founded in 1891; today it has an enrollment of more than 7,000 students. A university spokesperson told The New York Times it will take three to five years to create the Seattle University Museum of Art.

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