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The Bohen Foundation Gift

Under the leadership of Fred Henry, its president since 1984, the Bohen Foundation has developed a reputation throughout the art community for its sustained support of contemporary, media-based art. Started by Henry’s grandfather, Fred Bohen, in 1958 in Des Moines, the Bohen Foundation was originally a traditional, grantmaking family foundation dedicated to supporting local community causes. Under Henry, it became exclusively dedicated to supporting the arts, with its resources reaching nationally. Most remarkably, Henry developed a unique system of patronage, through which the Bohen Foundation commissions new works of art and then donates them to major institutions.

Since 1993, Henry and the Bohen Foundation have been actively engaged with the Guggenheim Museum, on whose board Henry currently serves as a trustee. They have contributed significantly in building the museum's collections, funding acquisitions by both contemporary and emerging artists, and commissioning new works, such as Nam June Paik's laser-based, site-specific Jacob's Ladder and Sweet and Sublime (both 2000), for the museum's rotunda as part of the exhibition The Worlds of Nam June Paik.  In 1999 and 2000, Henry and the Bohen Foundation donated several major, large-scale video installations by Vito Acconci, Stan Douglas, Bill Viola, and Steve McQueen—the first works by these artists to enter the museum’s collection.

In 2001, the Bohen Foundation made the decision to give the Guggenheim its entire holdings at that time, comprising some 275 works by 45 artists. The collection features several ambitious, large-scale video installations by such artists as Willie Doherty, Pierre Huyghe, Shirin Neshat, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Sam Taylor-Wood, Diana Thater, and Jane and Louise Wilson. It also includes important photographs and works in other mediums by Sophie Calle, Peter Campus, Glenn Ligon, Damien Hirst, Ilya Kabakov, Sally Mann, Suzanne McClelland, Vik Muniz, Michael Rovner, Tom Sachs, Mike and Doug Starn, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Fransesc Torres, and other artists, both established and emerging. Since then, this gift has been augmented by further donations, including video installations by Isaac Julien and Michael Joo, and a sculptural installation by Peter Wegner.

The Bohen Foundation’s gift immeasurably enriched and expanded the Guggenheim’s collection of contemporary art, particularly in the area of new media works, allowing the Guggenheim to present a vital and dynamic cross-section of art at the turn of the millennium.

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