Philanthropist and art-world denizen Agnes Gund said she was inspired by Ava DuVernay’s award-winning documentary about mass incarceration, “13,” and took a rather dramatic action as a result: Three years ago, Gund sold the 1962 Roy Lichtenstein painting “Masterpiece” and donated $100 million of the proceeds to start a fund to support criminal justice reform.
“She saw that film and was so moved by it, and she said, ‘I am not doing enough,'” said her daughter Catherine Gund, whose documentary feature about her mother, “Aggie,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday. “And she literally went home and chose this painting and said, ‘I am going to turn this painting into money for criminal justice reform.'”
In an interview at TheWrap’s Sundance Studio, Agnes Gund explained that she had had the painting for 40 years and had been friends with both Roy Lichtenstein and his wife for decades.
She also explained that she felt a personal connection to criminal justice issues since they deeply affect the African American community. “I have six grandchildren that are black,” Agnes Gund added, “and I should do something about that given the little I could give to it.”
The elder Gund also explained why she decided to devote her family’s substantial wealth to philanthropic endeavors like arts education and social-justice causes. “Largely the reason is because I felt guilty,” she said. “I felt like I shouldn’t have this when so many other people have this and they have all kinds of injustice that’s done to them.”
Watch more from the interview above.