ICA Receives Largest Gift in Museum History from Barbara Lee

The philanthropist and political activist is giving 43 works by 25 women artists.

ica gift barbara lee

Barbara Lee and Jill Medvedow in front of Lorna Simpson’s ID (left) and one of Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills (right). / Photo by Liza Voll Photography via ICA

The Institute of Contemporary Art just received its largest gift ever, the museum announced Friday. Philanthropist and political activist Barbara Lee is gifting 43 artworks created by 25 women artists from eight different countries.

The 20th and 21st century works range from painting to photography to sculpture created by Louise Bourgeois, Tara Donovan, Marlene Dumas, Mona Hatoum, Cindy Sherman, and Lorna Simpson, and many more modern and contemporary artists.

“With this extraordinary gift, the ICA Collection is enriched by works of remarkable quality and depth, ensuring our audiences the opportunity to experience art that has defined and continues to influence contemporary culture,” said ICA director Jill Medvedow in a press release. “Lee’s bold decision to focus on women artists has resulted in a collection that is conceptually distinct and diverse. Combining a personal sensibility with a pointed political vision, the Barbara Lee Collection of Art by Women is a magnificent demonstration of the power of one woman to catalyze change. We are honored to welcome these works into the collection and grateful to have such a champion in Barbara Lee.”

“Since its inception, the ICA has been an incubator of bold ideas, championing artists underrepresented in the cannon of art history and introducing them to Bostonians and visitors from around the world,” said Lee. “Under Jill Medvedow’s leadership, the ICA continues to forge milestones for the museum and the city. I can’t imagine a better home for this collection.”

This acquisition isn’t too surprising. Lee is the ICA’s Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees, made the lead gift to campaign for the museum’s current building designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and endowed the chief curator position. You might say she’s one of the ICA’s BFFs, and this year decided to give the biggest holiday present ever.

The new gift is the result of three decades of collecting by Lee, with most of the works dating from the 1980s to present. You can see select works from the collection online at icaboston.org.