Managing York’s art donations

From 14-foot abstract murals in Founders Dining Hall to gnomes sleeping above doorways in the Student Centre, York University boasts a varied and colourful public art collection. Whether admired in the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU), or enjoyed in places of study, reception areas and offices, donated artwork at York ranges from the sentimental to the significant.

To best prepare for future donations, the University Art Acceptance Committee (UAAC) has been created, meeting for the first time at the end of February. The UAAC, composed of representatives from the Department of Fine Arts, the AGYU, the York University Foundation and the York community, reviews all offers of art and determines if and how each work should be acquired. The decision to acquire new works is based on a variety of factors, including the piece’s fit with the collection mandate, educational and/or cultural value, and placement and maintenance requirements. The new Art Donation Policy, the committee reports, ensures that offered donations are considered strategically.

Right: In 2002, philanthropists Martin and Joan Goldfarb gave York a donation worth $3.75 million, which included 67 works of art

Benefactors give art to York for different reasons, be it an alumnus donating a painting for display in his/her college, a gift of art to commemorate a special event, or a major work entrusted to York for preservation for future generations. In terms of the latter, the AGYU is the only university agency that may accept works of art under the Cultural Property Export Review Board of Canada (CPERB), for gifts deemed to be of national significance.

“The cost to display, store and preserve private donations of art sometimes outweighs the benefits of accepting such gifts,” says Philip Monk, director/curator of the AGYU. “We want to ensure that the artwork we accept is properly maintained for generations to come.”

For those wanting to donate art to York under the new Art Donation Policy, the UAAC will direct a gift (once accepted) into one of three University collections: the AGYU, the Study Collection or the General Collection. Gifts will require appraisal at the donor’s expense. For consideration by the committee, donors are asked to provide a description and photograph of the works offered.

“It’s important that we know the types of donations that are coming in, in advance, so that we can align those donations with the needs of the University,” said Phillip Silver, dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts “Along with space issues and environmental conditions, our decision to accept a piece of art also depends on how well it aligns with the educational mission of the University.”

For example, in 2002, philanthropists Martin and Joan Goldfarb made a donation to York worth $3.75 million, which included 67 works of art. The collection from the Goldfarbs is considered a signature contribution that strongly supports the work of graduate and undergraduate programs in visual arts and art history.

For more information on donating gifts of art, please contact Jennifer Clark, director of development & gift planning at the York University Foundation: 416-650-8206 or

This story and photograph was sent to YFile by the York University Foundation.