The exhibition With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972–1985 at the Hessel Museum of Art, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (photo by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College (CCS Bard) announced last week that it has received a $25 million gift from the Marieluise Hessel Foundation. Matched with an equal amount from billionaire investor George Soros, the donation is part of a new $50 million endowment for the center.

In April, Soros pledged a $500 million “challenge grant” to Bard’s endowment. That means that the college will receive the money if it can raise an amount that matches or exceeds the billionaire’s pledge. So far, Bard has raised $250 million, intending to eventually amass an endowment of $1 billion, including Soros’s funds.

The gift from CCS Bard’s co-founder and benefactor Marieluise Hessel came on the occasion of the center’s 30th anniversary. Established in 1990, it was the first institution of its kind in the United States, dedicated exclusively to curatorial studies with a special interest in history, politics, and social issues.

Hessel’s support of the Bard dates back to the late 1980s when she granted Bard’s students and faculty exclusive access to her vast collection of contemporary art. That laid the groundwork for the creation of CCS Bard soon after. The collection is now housed in the Hessel Museum of Art on the college’s grounds, founded in 2006. In 2015, the Hessel Foundation donated to the expansion of the school’s library, special collections, and archives. In addition, the foundation continues to contribute annually to the college’s operating costs. According to Bard, support from the organization has also enabled CCS Bard to provide 90% of incoming students with financial aid.

“The groundwork that Marieluise established in co-founding the institution has catalyzed a shift in the field and, by extension, has advanced bold new discourses in contemporary art,” said Tom Eccles, CCS Bard’s executive director. “In sustaining CCS Bard for generations to come, Marieluise’s generosity will allow us to build on that legacy and continue to advance new ideas in curatorial practice and contemporary art. Above all, it is a gift to the future.”

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant and he holds an MFA in Art Writing from the School of Visual...