The National Gallery of Art has evolved through a unique partnership between the federal government of the United States and the American people. In one of the largest single gifts ever given to a government by a private citizen, Andrew W. Mellon donated his collection to the nation and built a splendid gallery to house it.
The Gallery’s founders recognized that a partnership of public and private forces, working together, could accomplish far more than either alone. Thus, since its authorization by a joint resolution of Congress in 1937, the National Gallery has been nourished by the steadfast support of an enlightened government and the generosity of visionary individuals. The federal government supports the Gallery’s basic operations and private support sustains its standards of excellence.
This vital partnership endows the Gallery with quality, continuity, and independence and establishes the institution as a lively and welcoming public place—a haven for personal and private encounters with art. The Gallery offers those committed to the importance of art in the life of America an extraordinary opportunity. Donors can make a difference to communities throughout the nation and around the world. Just as an earlier generation established the Gallery, the current generation can secure its greatness for the future.
Those who have made leadership commitments to the Gallery over time are recognized as Benefactors, the highest distinction accorded to donors. Currently Benefactor status is bestowed on those donors whose realized gifts of funds and/or art have reached a cumulative value of $5 million or more. The names of all Benefactors are inscribed at the West Building Constitution Avenue entrance, honoring them in perpetuity for their generosity.