Jackson Pollock was one of the most significant painters of the twentieth-century, but his family’s legacy goes far beyond his paintings. By the early 1980s, with Pollock long dead and his wife, Lee Krasner, ailing, their wealth (largely consisting of both spouses’ works) was valued at approximately $20 million. Krasner opted in 1985 to donate those assets to create a foundation, not to promote her art or her husband’s, but to support “worthy and needy visual artists” around the world. The Pollock-Krasner Foundation became the first successful foundation established by an artist, for artists, and is known for its smart, personal, flexible, fast philanthropy. It has to work that way, because unlike most art-loving groups, it focuses on providing emergency financial assistance to artists.
The foundation has been known to pay rent, provide health care or mental help, and meet a variety of other needs for talented artists. It supports dozens of artists each year, with grants varying in size and purpose based on the artist’s skill and need. It funds only visual artists who work in the categories of painting, sculpture, and installation (e.g. no computer or video artists), but has no requirements in terms of style. The foundation also operates the Lee Krasner Awards, which are by nomination only and recognize an artist’s lifetime achievements. As of 2012, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation has made over 3,500 grants totaling $54 million to artists in 72 countries, and artists have credited its assistance for rescuing them from everything from poverty to creative blocks to suicide.
- Waldemar Nielsen, Inside American Philanthropy (University of Oklahoma Press, 1996) p. 136-139
- Pollock-Krasner Foundation, pkf.org