Bucksbaum real estate family donates $25M to Art Institute of Chicago

Will be used to create a photography center in family’s names

Chicago Real Estate Family Donates $25M To Art Institute
Carolyn Bucksbaum with the Art Institute of Chicago (The University of Chicago Medicine, Getty)

A family that became a real estate powerhouse in the latter half of the 20th century has made a hefty donation to the Art Institute of Chicago. 

The $25 million gift from the Bucksbaum family will be used to create a new photography center in the family’s name, while funding other initiatives to “expand and enhance the visitor experience,” Crain’s reported

The Bucksbaum Photography Center will house the Art Institute’s department of photography and media and its collection. It’s the largest donation ever given to the department.

Carolyn Bucksbaum, widow of General Growth Properties co-founder Matthew Bucksbaum, has been a member of the photography and media curatorial committee and the museum’s board of trustees for more than 20 years. A gallery in the museum’s Modern Wing is named after Carolyn and her late husband.

“This gift from our family is an investment in the future of the department at the museum and the curators who are moving this field forward,” she told the outlet.

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Matthew Bucksbaum founded General Growth Properties alongside his brothers, Martin and Maurice, in the 1950s. The company — which moved its headquarters from Iowa to Chicago in 2000 —  eventually became one of the largest shopping mall operators in the United States. 

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Brookfield Asset Management acquired General Growth for around $15 billion in 2018, five years after Matthew’s death. At the time, it was the third-largest takeover ever of a real estate investment trust, the outlet reported.

Apart from the Brookfield acquisition, the family’s real estate prowess lives on through Bucksbaum Properties, of which John Bucksbaum is the CEO. The firm’s Chicago portfolio includes the Addison & Clark retail complex, Gateway Plaza mixed-use development and the Newcity shopping center in Lincoln Park. It also has properties in St. Louis and Atlanta, according to its website.

—Quinn Donoghue