Gund, Agnes (1938—)

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Gund, Agnes (1938—)

American art historian, collector, philanthropist, educator, and administrator. Born in 1938 in Cleveland, Ohio; daughter of George Gund; married Albrecht Saalfield, around 1966 (divorced); married Daniel Shapiro, in 1987; children: (first marriage) David Saalfield; Catherine Saalfield; Anna Saalfield; Jessica Saalfield .

Agnes Gund was born in 1938 in Cleveland, Ohio, and developed her appreciation for art while surrounded by her father's eclectic collection. One of six children of George Gund, a banking executive, Agnes learned responsibility at age 15, when her mother died. Agnes took on the job of maintaining the family. Her father made his fortune in a variety of industries, including real estate and investments, and when he died in 1966 Agnes became a millionaire. Around that same time, she married a private-school teacher, Albrecht Saalfield. The couple had four children, a son David and three daughters, Catherine, Anna and Jessica.

Gund attended the Fogg Museum at Harvard University where she earned a master's degree, and in 1976 she was elected to the Museum of Modern Art's (MOMA) board of trustees. In 1977, Gund discovered an unusual outlet for her love of art when she founded her Studio in a School project, which brought artists into public schools to teach art. Although the program has met with some criticism, many agreed that it built confidence and allowed children the pleasure of creative expression.

In 1981, Gund divorced, relocated to New York City, and became hostess to artists and art lovers alike. Six years later, she married David Shapiro, an attorney who specialized in art and cultural- and intellectual-property law.

Gund won admiration for her sharp eye for both the beautiful and the unique. In 1991, she became president of MOMA, responsible for directing the board of trustees and managing the institution. Many praised her fresh approach to fundraising and her ability to foster a sense of trust and inspiration as she took on the problems of the institution, including its lack of space and aging contemporary collection. In 1998, Agnes Gund was one of several honorees receiving National Medal of Arts awards, presented by President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton at the White House.


Newsmakers 93. Issue 2. Detroit, MI: Gale Research.

Judith C. Reveal , freelance writer, Greensboro, Maryland