‘Law & Order’ Creator and Art Collector Dick Wolf’s Surprise Donation to the Met

The television producer has amassed a large collection of Old Master works over the years.

Man in black sweater stands at podium
Dick Wolf in Los Angeles on February 17, 2023. Michael Buckner/Variety via Getty Images

Christmas has come early for New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The institution is receiving an eight-figure endowment and more than 200 works of art in an unexpected gift from Dick Wolf, creator of Law & Order. 

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“This is my holiday gift to the museum, the people of New York and the city where I first encountered the power and beauty of great art,” said Wolf in a statement. The television producer, who grew up in New York and regularly visited the Met after school, described the institution as “the world’s greatest museum.”

While a growing franchise of Dick Wolf shows racked up Emmy awards, the producer was building up quite the collection of Old Masters, as evidenced by the hundreds of Renaissance and Baroque works he is handing over to the Met. Ranging from 15th-century Italian drawings to furniture and sculptures, the donation will benefit the museum’s European Paintings, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, and Drawings and Prints departments.

What’s in Dick Wolf’s art collection?

Oil painting of boats at sea
Vincent van Gogh, Beach at Scheveningen in Calm Weather, (1882). Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

While his collection includes work by lesser-known artists, the producer has amassed treasures from Bronzino, Botticelli, Vincent Van Gogh, 17th-century artists Artemisia and Orazio Gentileschi and the 18th-century painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Among the highlights is Van Gogh’s 1882 Beach at Scheveningen in Calm Weather, which commanded $2.8 million at auction last year.

Wolf is also donating a 15th-century Botticelli valued at $4.6 million and Orazio Gentileschi’s 1620 Madonna and Child, which is already on view at the Met and last sold for $4.4 million at auction. In the coming years, the museum plans to bring together selected works from Wolf’s donation for an installation showcasing the collection’s drawings.

Oil painting of mother holding child
Orazio Gentileschi, Madonna and Child, (ca. 1620). Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met isn’t just receiving material gifts—in addition to giving away works of art, Wolf will endow two galleries in the museum’s Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, which will subsequently be known as the Dick Wolf Galleries. While the Met declined to comment on the exact sum of the endowment, the figure reportedly totals tens of millions of dollars.

The financial contribution “will provide critical support for The Met’s collection display and scholarly pursuits,” said Max Hollein, the museum’s director, in a statement. Special attention will be given to rethinking gallery displays and how the museum’s current collection of 15th- and 16th-century works can be complemented by art from Wolf’s collection.

While Dick Wolf’s penchant for collecting has until now flown under the radar, the producer has long supported art institutions. In 2017, he made a multi-million-dollar donation via his family foundation to Moxi: The Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation, a Santa Barbara-based museum dedicated to science, technology and the arts.

He has also been a chair of the Bellosguardo Foundation, which operates a private arts foundation in a 23-acre estate formerly owned by copper heiress Huguette Clarke. Wolf in 2018 described Bellosguardo as a “Santa Barbara version of the Frick,” referring to Manhattan’s Frick Collection. While the foundation is still in the process of obtaining permits, it recently opened the historic landmark to the public for tours.

‘Law & Order’ Creator and Art Collector Dick Wolf’s Surprise Donation to the Met