Walter Annenberg spent his life building a media empire, launching Seventeen and TV Guide magazines, and starting or buying one television station or cable company after another. By the mid-twentieth century he was making sizable charitable donations, and by the 1980s he had turned almost full time to philanthropy. While his roughly $2 billion in cash for education, research, broadcasting, and other areas included many notable milestones, perhaps his most stunning single gift came in the arts realm.
Annenberg had already been influential in lobbying to get the Barnes Collection in Philadelphia’s suburbs opened to the public. He later tried unsuccessfully to start a center for art education through television. Then in 1991, he pledged his personal collection of 53 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The collection was valued at $1 billion at the time. When the gift was announced, the New York Times suggested that the “Annenberg collection …may be acclaimed in due time as the most important single gift to have been given to the Metropolitan Museum since 1929.”
- Waldemar Nielsen, Inside American Philanthropy (University of Oklahoma Press, 1996), p. 66
- John Russell, “Annenberg Picks Met for $1 Billion Gift,” New York Times, March 12, 1991, nytimes.com/1991/03/12/arts/annenberg-picks-met-for-1-billion-gift.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm