The Portland Museum of Art has received the largest matching gift in its history, a $5 million donation from a New York City couple with ties to Maine and the Estée Lauder cosmetics fortune.

Judy and Leonard Lauder are making the donation provided that the museum can match their contribution.

“We are well on our way to matching their $5 million gift,” said Mark H.C. Bessire, the museum’s director.

Thursday’s announcement coincides with the museum’s Focused Endowment Initiative, a targeted plan to spur more donor support and to increase the museum’s endowment by $15 million.

Bessire declined to say how much money had been pledged to the endowment initiative because most of the donations have been not been collected. The museum’s current endowment is about $30 million. Its annual operating budget is $6 million, Bessire said.

“This is a transformative gift and one of the largest in the history of the Portland Museum of Art,” he said in a written statement.

The Lauders hope their gift will motivate other people in the community to donate to the museum located in the heart of Portland’s arts district at Seven Congress Square.

“They are very entrepreneurial and sophisticated philanthropists,” Bessire said.

LIFELONG FRIENDS WITH MAINE TIES

Leonard Lauder is the chairman emeritus of Estée Lauder, the cosmetics company named for his mother.

Judy Lauder has a home in Cape Elizabeth and was married to Al Glickman, a well-known Maine philanthropist who died in May 2013. The University of Southern Maine’s library in Portland – the Albert Brenner Glickman Family Library – was named in his honor.

Judy and Leonard Lauder were married in January 2015 in Sarasota, Florida, in a wedding that was covered by The New York Times.

“They have been lifelong friends,” Bessire said. Although they live in New York most of the year, the couple does spend time in Maine.

He said Judy Lauder is a prominent international photographer and has been a longtime supporter of the Portland Museum of Art.

Steve Halpert, 83, of Portland has known Judy Lauder for more than 50 years. He also is a curator at the University of New England’s Art Gallery in Portland. Halpert said Judy Lauder has donated her photographic work to UNE over the years.

“I’m not at all surprised by this gift. They are both very generous people,” Halpert said Thursday night.

In 2013, Leonard Lauder donated his collection of 81 Cubist paintings, works and paper and sculptures to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Bessire said. The collection included 34 pieces by Pablo Picasso and was valued at more than $1 billion.

“We are overjoyed to be able to make this gift to the Portland Museum of Art in recognition of its sterling leadership – from Director Mark Bessire and Board Chairman Jeffrey Kane – to the extraordinary board, museum staff, and volunteers, who have collectively made the Portland Museum of Art one of the leading regional art museums in the United States,” the Lauders said in a statement issued Thursday.

“While we recognize the importance of buildings, we also recognize the tremendous importance of economic stability for cultural institutions,” the statement said. “We are confident that this gift, which focuses on the museum endowment, will greatly enhance and promote the financial integrity of this magnificent Maine institution.”

STRENGTHENING MUSEUM’S CAPABILITIES

Jeffrey Kane, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees, said the museum is grateful for the Lauders’ generosity and confidence in the museum’s mission.

“As the Lauder gift clearly demonstrates, the museum’s focus on improving the visitor experience with the collection has made a compelling case for continued investment,” Kane said in a written statement. “This historic and generous gift confirms the Lauders’ extraordinary commitment to the arts and strengthens the capabilities of the PMA to connect art to everyday life.”

Dan O’Leary of Scarborough, who served as PMA director from 1993-2007, said Thursday night that “this (donation) is one of the great moments in the history of the Portland Art Museum. There are very few things that can stand beside this gift. After I heard about the gift I wanted to email Judy to tell her she is an angel. Her husband is also an angel.”

Andres Verzosa, the outgoing interim director of the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, said he is a longtime friend of Judy Lauder, having met her several years ago at his Old Port art gallery.

“I have the highest praise and admiration for her,” Verzosa said. “She just seems to embody all the right qualities as a philanthropist and supporter of the arts on every level. She is heartfelt and passionate.”

He said the $5 million doesn’t necessarily solidify the museum’s finances, but “it really paves the way for a more stable future.”

“This will cement the Portland Museum of Art as the anchor and leader of the state’s cultural arts community,” Verzosa said.

PMA officials said the only gifts to the museum that were similar in scope were the 17 Winslow Homer works from Charles Shipman Payson in 1979, a Renoir and related Impressionist works of art from John Whitney Payson in 1991, and the $4 million bequest from William Thon in 2000.

In honor of the donation, the position of PMA director will be renamed the Judy and Leonard Lauder Director of the Portland Museum of Art.

 

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