What a $10 Million Board Seat at a Top NYC Arts Institution Will Get You

Lincoln Center & NYC Ballet - H 2016
Courtesy of Jon Simon

"It brings power, influence, a cachet to your collection," says art advisory firm Guggenheim Asher Associates' Abigail Asher. "It also gives you inside information as to what the curators are doing [with] younger and midcareer artists."

This story first appeared in the April 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Like a co-op in the Beresford, nothing says tasteful wealth like a board seat at one of New York's top arts institutions. For a few million dollars (give or take), Hollywood's nouveau riche can acquire a patina of legacy and establishment by numbering among the few dozen voting members at a cultural mecca.

Not surprisingly, the two with the highest dollar thresholds are The Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with the latter costing $10 million or more (plus sizable annual contributions) for a trustee spot. For deep-pocketed collectors, joining a board is savvy as museums are vital in dictating artists' market value. For instance, a Willem de Kooning retrospective ran at MoMA in 2011-12, and three years later the abstract expressionist's Interchange fetched $300 million, the most to date for a painting. CAA co-founder and MoMA board member Michael Ovitz, who owns works by de Kooning (as well as Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko and Jasper Johns), is among those who benefited. "It brings power, influence, a cachet to [a Hollywood collector]," says Abigail Asher of art-advisory firm Guggenheim Asher Associates. "It also gives you inside information as to what the curators are doing [with] younger and midcareer artists."

The institutions also benefit from Hollywood backers, who are valuable for bringing diversified money and artistic expression to a board. MoMA's film department, which doesn't have a board, enjoys the deepest reach into the showbiz community: Among its most committed donors of time, money and works are Kathryn Bigelow, who gifted archival materials spanning her career, and Martin Scorsese, whose preservation efforts dovetail with MoMA's housing of 22,000 movies in a state-of-the-art facility that includes D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation. "An incredibly connected network has been key to bringing in new Hollywood blood," says Rajendra Roy, MoMA's chief curator of film. "Our goal is to continue to engage a diverse base of supporters, one that reflects the movie-loving public."

1. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Given the $10 million (or more) plus sizable annual contributions for a trustee spot, there's no significant Hollywood presence on the board, which is dominated by Wall Street titans. But Vogue's Anna Wintour was bumped up to voting member after raising about $150 million for The Costume Institute, and Ken Sunshine, whose Sunshine Sachs reps Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck, holds a post as Mayor Bill de Blasio's designee.

2. Lincoln Center & NYC Ballet

For the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, board membership requires a hefty upfront and annual donations. Those who have reached deep include CAA's Bryan Lourd and Beasts of No Nation co-financier Daniel Crown. In his bid to become the next Andrew Carnegie, David Geffen pledged $100 million for naming rights to Avery Fisher Hall — now David Geffen Hall — home of the New York Philharmonic. Part of the Lincoln Center campus, the ballet counts Sarah Jessica Parker as board vice chairman. Board members include Lesley Stahl, producer Debra Martin Chase and Lisa Maria Falcone, who produced Mud and 127 Hours.

3. Hamptons International Film Festival

With a summer home in the Hamptons de rigueur for Hollywood arts patrons, the festival boasts several showbiz backers: chairman Alec Baldwin and board members Crown, Lynne and Darren Star. In addition to signing checks, Baldwin curates, hosts and conducts all Q&As for the SummerDocs series. He also is known to host small tastemaker dinners at his home to widen the festival's donor base.

4. Museum of Modern Art

Amid an ambitious, controversial expansion, MoMA requires substantial contributions for board inclusion (50 trustees were asked to donate $5 million or more to its previous renovation in 2004). The panel includes avid collectors Ovitz, whose name graces a fourth-floor gallery; New Line Cinema co-founder Michael Lynne; and multibillionaire Ron Perelman, who owns top postproduction house Deluxe Entertainment.

5. Whitney Museum

The Whitney boasts its share of Hollywood benefactors including board member Bob Gersh and CAA's Beth Swofford, a member of the Founding Circle for the new 220,000-square-foot, Renzo Piano-designed outpost in the Meatpacking District. For the inaugural show, Swofford donated works including Elizabeth Peyton's painting of Barack and Michelle Obama, which the first lady visited when she officially opened the museum.

6. The Public Theater

The East Village venue where Hamilton made its off-Broadway debut in 2015 boasts a roster of industry players on its board. Broadway producer Arielle Tepper Madover (The Elephant Man with Bradley Cooper) chairs; Anne Hathaway, who starred in Twelfth Night there in 2009, and Liev Schreiber have seats. Also on the board: Charles Cohen of Cohen Media Group, who draws "upon my extensive real estate and business experience."

7. Tribeca Film Institute

Since 2002, co-chairs Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal have enlisted an impressive swath of New York-based industryites with whom to work (mentoring is a higher priority than check-writing for the pair). The current board includes HBO's Sheila Nevins and Todd Wagner, the billionaire entrepreneur behind Magnolia Pictures and Landmark Theatres.