Skip To Content

Holocaust Survivor Donates Art Worth $500M to Chicago Museum

The largest art gift in the history of the Art Institute of Chicago has been donated to the museum by Stefan Edlis, a Vienna-born Jewish industrialist and art collector, and his wife Gael Neeson.

The over 40 works from Edlis’ collection of Pop and contemporary art that will go to the museum include nine silkscreens by Andy Warhol, four paintings by Gerhard Richter, three by Jasper Johns as well as two canvases by Roy Lichtenstein. Edlis, who is 89, decided to donate after the Art Institute agreed to keep the works on display for at least 50 years. “It’s a win-win-situation for me and the Institute and Chicago,” Edlis said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. He also said that the agreement to not have the art in a “warehouse” was crucial.

The Institute’s board approved of the donation, which is worth nearly $500 million, on Tuesday night, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Edlis started Apollo Plastics Corporation in Chicago in 1965, and started buying art in the late 1960s without any formal training. In the beginning, he only bought art made out of plastic, but stopped when he realized that dealers told artists to use plastic because Edlis would buy it, Plastics News reported. He then focused on Postwar and Pop Art, and hangs Roy Lichtenstein works in his bedroom.

Edlis grew up in Vienna, and escaped to the United States in 1941. During World War II, Edlis was a sailor, and worked as a toolmaker after the War, where he taught himself about plastics.

Edlis and Neeson, who is 71, still get to keep around 200 pieces of art, the Chicago Tribune reported. According to the Tribune, Edlis wanted to donate a significant part of his collection so his wife wouldn’t be burdened with it.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.