Though the art world has maintained a rather adversarial stance toward the 45th US President, collectors and museum board members figure prominently among those who helped Donald Trump raise $106.7 million for his poorly attended inauguration. According to a 510-page report of donations to Trump’s inaugural committee released on Tuesday by the Federal Elections Committee, billionaire art collector and Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) board member Steven A. Cohen as well as Henry Kravis — whose wife, Marie-Josée Kravis, is the president of MoMA — both gave $1 million. Unlike campaign contributions, which are capped, there is no limit to how much can be given to a candidate’s inaugural committee.
The largest individual contribution came from Vegas casino magnate and major GOP supporter Sheldon Adelson — who’s also a big donor to Yad Vashem in Israel, funding the creation of the Museum of Holocaust Art there; he gave $5 million to Trump’s inauguration. Another Vegas mogul, Frank Fertitta — who once bought a fake Mark Rothko painting from the Knoedler Gallery — gave $207,000. Hedge fund manager John Paulson, who’s a member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Chairman’s Circle and once donated $100 million to the Central Park Conservancy, contributed $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration. The former Iranian ambassador to the US, Hushang Ansary, and his wife, Sashla — who, as The Art Newspaper pointed out, helped fund the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s department of Islamic art — donated a total of $2 million.
Among the corporate donors are several companies that have ties to art in one form or another. Bank of America, which offers grants for art conservation projects and free admission via its Museums on Us program, kicked in $1 million. Las Vegas’s Wynn Resorts, whose CEO, Steve Wynn, is a major art collector, contributed $729,217. Walmart, whose founders, the Waltons, created the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas, gave $150,000. Internet giant Google, whose arts initiatives include the Google Cultural Institute, gave a total of $285,000. Online retailer Amazon, which has made several forays into the online marketplace for art, with mixed results, contributed $57,746.13. Candy company Mars Inc., which once gave $5 million to the Smithsonian Institution, was considerably less generous to Trump: it gave $1,827.46 toward his inauguration.
Trump’s $106.7 million in donations set a new record, doubling the roughly $53 million that Obama collected for his inauguration in 2009, which at the time was the most ever raised by an inaugural committee.