Billionaire Mitchell Rales donated $1.9 billion to his Glenstone Foundation, which supports Potomac, Maryland’s Glenstone Museum. The 2021 gift is one of the largest ever to an arts organization. To date, it has been used to fund operating costs at the private contemporary art museum, which Rales cofounded in 2006 with his wife, Emily Wei Rales, and on whose grounds the couple maintain their primary residence. The money has also gone toward costs associated with capital building projects, facilities maintenance, and acquisitions. The museum this past June inaugurated a new 4,000-square-foot building to house Richard Serra’s monumental Four Rounds: Equal Weight, Unequal Measure, 2017, a four-part steel sculpture weighing 328 tons. Additionally, the foundation has dispersed some of the funds in the form of major gifts to organizations including the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Triple Aught Foundation, which oversees Michael Heizer’s massive City, 1970–, in Garden Valley, Nevada.
The gift—made up of cash and shares of Rales’s industrial conglomerate, Danaher Corp.—brings Glenstone’s net assets to roughly $4.6 billion, placing it on a financial par with New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bloomberg noted that the gift “dwarfs” the $200 million donation that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos made to Washington, DC’s Smithsonian Institute the same year. “An endowment like [Rales’s] means this museum can exist in perpetuity,” Evan Beard, an executive vice president at art-investment platform Masterworks, told the publication.
In addition to the building unveiled last summer, Glenstone currently comprises a 30,000-square-foot Charles Gwathmey-designed exhibition building and a 204,000-square-foot series of pavilions designed by Thomas Phifer, as well as a sculpture park occupying part of the 230 acres on which it sits. The museum, which is a nonprofit enterprise and free to the public, welcomed 100,000 visitors last year; by contrast, the similarly endowed Met hosted more than six million visitors annually prior to the pandemic.