Valued at over $100 million, the gift from Joseph and Nancy Keithley, Clevelanders who have maintained a longstanding relationship with the museum, is the largest the institution has seen in more than 60 years. Ninety-seven of the newly donated works have been transferred to the museum outright, while 17 others are promised to enter the collection in the future.
For the museum’s director, William Griswold, the news came as something of a surprise.
“This was not a promised gift,” he tells Artnet News. “It’s something that all of us devoutly hoped might come to the museum, but quite frankly I didn’t think I’d see it during my tenure here. It was thrilling news when Joe and Nancy informed me last November that they wished to make this gift—and to make it right away.”
A selection of the donated works—including pieces by Braque, Matisse, Mitchell, and Wyeth—will go on view as soon as March 13 in the museum’s permanent collection galleries. While a more comprehensive exhibition of the Keithley gift is set for the fall of 2022.
For the museum, the gift was rare not only because of its size and scope, but because of the institution’s typical acquisition habits.
“Ours is not primarily a collection of collections in the way that most museums’ collections are,” Griswold says. “Because we’ve been the beneficiaries of considerable acquisition funds, this is an institution that has had the luxury of building its collection in large part through purchase.”