New York art dealer Sean Kelly is giving art world a lesson on how to properly donate a collection. Kelly has spent the past quarter century amassing books and ephemera connected to the Irish author James Joyce. The collection has been called “the best collection of Joyce in private hands in the world.” Recently, Kelly announced that he is gifting the entire thing to The Morgan Library in New York. It is not remarkable that a wealthy collector would donate something fabulous to the Morgan Library. Just last week, the estate of Paul F. Walter donated an original manuscript of the revolutionary Philip Glass opera Einstein on the Beach to the same institution. What is important is that phrase “estate of” Most gifts of this magnitude come from collectors who have passed away. Even J. P. Morgan, the man for whom the Morgan Library is named, had been dead for more than a decade before his library was opened up for public use.
Kelly, whose eponymous gallery is only six blocks away from the Morgan Library, is still quite young. He told ARTnews, “I think it’s exciting to do something good when you can still enjoy it”. The value of the gift is in the millions of dollars. Such a gesture shows the true passion Kelly have had for Joyce, sacrificing a fortune, and giving up ownership of true treasures so they can be properly cared for and shared with all.
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