Nobody Is Saying Who Gave The Bruce Museum Its ‘Unprecedented’ $50 M.+ Gift — But There Are Signs

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Edward Hopper, Two Comedians, 1966.

The Bruce Museum is a Greenwich institution that hosts exhibitions related to art and science. The museum received a collection of 70 pieces of art collected by a local anonymous couple. This made it the largest art donation in its 112-year history. People in the area who are familiar with the cultural life of Greenwich remain silent about the identity of the local donor.

Nobody reveals the name. However, clear signs point to a secretive charitable buyer at the auction. An analysis of past sold and comparable auction prices for 17 works from the collection shows that the combined value of the works is estimated at more than $50 million.

One of the works of art in the collection is Edward Hopper’s Bridle Path (1939), sold for $10.2 million in 2012 at Christie’s, and Mary Cassatt’s Two Little Sisters (1901-1902), which was sold for $519,000 in the 2020 year.

In 2016, Camille Pissarro’s Bridle Path and Fenaison à Éragny, also in the gift, were featured in an exhibition of work donated by anonymous alumni at the University of Vermont’s Fleming Art Museum. Local philanthropist Steven M. Grossman is a UVT alumnus and a major contributor to the university’s business school.

The Grossman Charitable Foundation was one of the top four donors to donate to the Bruce Museum expansion campaign in October 2020. However, none of this is confirmation, and Robert Wolterstorff, executive director, and chief executive officer of the Bruce Museum, declined to name the lender, citing privacy concerns.

Bruce’s $60 million expansion project is to double the museum’s size with a renovated 43,000-square-foot space dedicated to exhibitions and public programs. Construction on the project started in October 2020 but stopped in January 2021. Then the museum announced temporary closure due to breaks in the redevelopment project, citing growth issues associated with any major expansion.

Describing the gift as unprecedented, Wolterstorff described it as unmatched in scale and quality by anything previously donated to this museum.

Wolterstorff took over the museum in 2019, spearheading an expansion project dubbed “The New Bruce” for the museum, which oversaw a $40.3 million balance in 2019, according to a tax document. Wolterstorff’s predecessor was the previous director Peter Sutton, a Dutch art specialist, and resident of Greenwich who is credited with transforming the museum of art and science from a regional center to a medium-sized museum.

American art experts say the donation could expand the museum’s reach. The museum has long served a local and super-wealthy audience, competing with neighboring New York City institutions for attendance. Debra Force, a longtime New York American art dealer, said the gift should transform Bruce, who she said: “has suffered over time due to his proximity to New York.”

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