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St. Louis Art Museum Receives $50 Million Gift From Prominent Local Family

The U.S. Attorney is demanding that the Saint Louis Art Museum surrender an Egyptian mask that may be stolen property
Flickr | ChrisYunker
The U.S. Attorney is demanding that the Saint Louis Art Museum surrender an Egyptian mask that may be stolen property

Three years after her death, Edith Spink, Ladue's longest serving mayor, continues to shape the area's culture.

Tuesday the St. Louis Art Museum announced a bequest of 225 artworks from her and her husband, Charles Claude Johnson Spink, the onetime publisher of the national sports paper "The Sporting News."

The gift, which is valued at more than $50 million, includes work by famed American painters Norman Rockwell and Andrew Wyeth as well as Chinese and Japanese jade, bronze and porcelain pieces valued at more than $5 million apiece. 

Director Brent Benjamin said these gifts improve the museum for local St. Louisans and build the opportunity for national interactions with the larger art community.

“The museum that we have is the result of just this kind of activity,” said Benjamin.

According to the museum, the Spinks collected the work with the express purpose of filling cultural gaps in the collection. Some artworks included in the gift have been on loan to the museum since 2004. According to Benjamin, correspondence among art dealers, which was delivered to the museum along with the art, indicates the gift was planned by the Spinks as early as the 1980s.

Benjamin says this gift stand out in the donors’ attention to the museum’s collection.

“What’s unique about this is that Edie and Johnson Spink collected with the museum’s holdings in mind, thinking about the areas where our collection was weak,” Benjamin said.

Museum staff worked with the Spinks throughout their collecting years. The couple started collecting in the 1970s. The collection began as C.C. Johnson’s passion, said Benjamin, but his wife quickly joined in his pursuit. Benjamin said the gift sets an example for the institution’s growth.

“The continued benefaction of generations of St. Louisans for the museum continue to make it a greater institution both for those that experience the museum daily in St. Louis and for our interactions nationally,” said Benjamin.

When asked if he had a favorite piece from the gift, Benjamin chuckled.

“It’s a little like asking what’s your favorite child so I’ll have to plead the fifth in this,” he said.