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Agnes Gund, New York City, 2014. Photo: Annie Leibovitz. Courtesy of the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation.
Agnes Gund, New York City, 2014. Photo: Annie Leibovitz. Courtesy of the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Present Agnes Gund with Inaugural Leadership Award

Art collector, civic leader, and philanthropist Agnes Gund has been named the inaugural recipient of the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award. The new accolade recognizes women who have “exercised a positive and notable influence on society” and served as “exceptional role model[s] in both principles and practice,” and will be bestowed annually by the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation. Ginsburg, an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, will present Gund with the award at a ceremony at the Library of Congress on February 14.

“It would be hard to imagine a person more deserving than Aggie Gund,” said businessman, philanthropist, and chair of the RBG Award John J. Studzinski, who oversaw the selection of the winner. “Like Justice Ginsburg, Aggie embodies empathy, humility, and concern for the dignity of others.”

A lifelong arts patron and avid collector of modern and contemporary art, Gund made headlines in 2017 when she auctioned a prized work by Roy Lichtenstein, Masterpiece, 1962, for $165 million and used the funds to start the Art for Justice Fund, which provides grants to organizations working toward criminal justice reform. Since it launched, the fund has backed numerous projects and institutions, including the Bard Prison Initiative, Dream Corps, Forward Justice, the Vera Institute of Justice, and the Youth First Initiative.

Gund is also the president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the chair of MoMA PS1. She is founder and chair emerita of Studio in a School, which provides visual arts instruction to New York City students, and cofounder of the Center for Curatorial Leadership, which offers five-month fellowships for curators. Over the years, she has served on the boards of several institutions, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Frick Collection, and the J. Paul Getty Trust, and has received a Getty Medal, the Leonore and Walter Annenberg Award for Diplomacy through the Arts, and the National Medal for the Arts.

Commenting on the award, Gund said: “To be compared to Justice Ginsburg is so extraordinary and an overwhelming honor. I have worked most of my life to ensure that access to art should be a right, not a privilege because it can open minds and inspire dreams.” She added: “With Art for Justice, that mission is intensified as we employ the arts to foster much-needed criminal justice reform. It is my hope that by living up to Justice Ginsburg’s legacy, we can encourage a generation of future leaders and heroes to make their own mark on the world.”