The Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania has received a gift of $10 million to enhance the scope and flexibility of its curatorial efforts, ICA director Amy Sadao announced Wednesday.
The gift comes from a longtime ICA supporter and board member, the philanthropist and collector Daniel W. Dietrich II.
The gift, which doubles the institute's endowment, is the second instance of Dietrich-funded cultural philanthropy to come to light this week. On Monday, the Association for Public Art announced that Dietrich had donated funds to acquire sculptor Roxy Paine's silvery Symbiosis, which has been temporarily installed near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The tree-like stainless steel sculpture will now remain permanently in place.
Sadao called Dietrich, who lives in Chester County, a "courageous arts patron" with a deep understanding of ICA.
The self-effacing Dietrich, 73, called his gifts part of "an autumnal late blooming for me."
He has been associated with the institute since 1969, serving on the exhibitions committee for many years, and is now an emeritus member of the board of directors. His gift, he said in an interview, is "boundless in potential," allowing time for curators and artists to "percolate ideas" and "approach artwork from the meditative side."
His hope is that it proves "transformational," allowing artists and curators "to be explorers in a way that most institutions" cannot support.
The gift, he said, "is really about exploring the notion of what it means to be an artist."
That means, he said, giving artists and curators the time necessary to probe all manner of ideas, even those that don't necessarily lead in a direct line to exhibitions.
The gift comes after about a year and a half of conversations between Dietrich and the ICA's director.
"We wanted to get at the core of ICA and what it has been since its founding," director Sadao said. "That means . . . giving artists the opportunity to venture into new territory and even possibly to see work in a new light. That takes time."
In addition to providing time, the gift will give ICA a greater reach, facilitating its ability to bring artists to Philadelphia from all over - for exhibition-related programming or just a straightforward exchange of ideas.
Curators will have an opportunity to "build relationships with artists," Sadao said.
For one thing, many ICA exhibitions make use of entire galleries and even the whole museum, integrating art and space in intricate and specific ways.
The institution has no permanent collection and often depends on the response of artists to the ICA space. The new funding will mean "saying yes to artists' vision," Sadao said. And it gives artists and curators the time to contemplate how to make ideas manifest.
The gift, she said, also represents a huge step forward in a $20 million, five-year plan to enhance ICA's artistic projects, programming and educational efforts, ramp up outreach efforts, and polish the experience of visitors and artists who use the space.
The Dietrich gift, Sadao said, "lifts us onto another stage."