Art News

Arlene Schnitzer Makes $10 Million Gift to Portland Art Museum

Meant to kickstart work on the Mark Rothko Pavilion, it's the largest donation from a single individual in the museum's history.

By Conner Reed January 21, 2020

Arlene Schnitzer

Standing at a podium in the Portland Art Museum's Mark Building, Jordan Schnitzer holds his phone to the mic stand. "Hello," croaks the voice of his mother, philanthropist Arlene Schnitzer. A brief silence, then deafening applause.

The occasion: an invite-only event to celebrate Schnitzer's $10 million gift to the Portland Art Museum—the largest donation from a single individual in the museum's 127 year history. 

It comes as PAM ramps up work on its Mark Rothko Pavilion, which will connect its two buildings on Park Avenue and expand its gallery space. Community members raised concerns about the pavilion's placement when initial plans were announced back in 2016—the gap between buildings currently serves as a pedestrian shortcut from Park to 10th Ave at Madison—but criticism died down when a revised plan featuring a walkway surfaced the following year.

Tuesday morning's event also included appearances from Governor Kate Brown, Representative Suzanne Bonamici, and the Lincoln High School chamber choir. (Schnitzer, who recently turned 91, was under the weather and could only appear via speakerphone.) Rep. Bonamici announced an additional $750,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that the museum will also use to further work on the Rothko Pavilion.

Watch Schnitzer speak about her gift, and her connections to the museum and to Mark Rothko himself, below. Famous for his largely monochromatic murals, Rothko landed in Portland in 1913 after his family emigrated from Russia. He attended both Lincoln High School and the Museum Art School and remains, arguably, Oregon's most famous artist. 

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