Ukrainian-born billionaire Sir Leonard Blavatnik donates £10 million to Courtauld Institute

The funds will make up a fifth of the budget for the art school’s renovation project 


Ukrainian-born billionaire Sir Leonard Blavatnik has donated £10 million to the Courtauld Institute of Art in London – a fifth of the funds needed for the school’s renovation project. 

The UK’s fourth richest man – who was born to Jewish parents in Soviet-run Odessa – will be rewarded with six new galleries known as the Blavatinik Fine Rooms as part of the £50 million makeover of the Grade I listed site. 

Ernst Vegelin van Claerbergen, head of the Courtauld Gallery, told the Times that the institute’s Great Room would also be refurbished, and vaulted subterranean spaces would be created. 

Courtauld’s art collection – which will be completely rehung as part of the transformation – is recognised as one of the greatest in Europe, ranging from Renaissance pieces to 20th century works. 

An independently-governed constituent of the University of London, the Courtauld Institute was founded in 1932 by Samuel Courtauld, Sir Robert Witt and Viscount Lee of Fareham, and has become one of the world’s foremost art education establishments. 

“We want it to be a brain-fizzing experience,” Mr van Claerbergen said. “It has to be lively and we want people to have memorable encounters with what really is one of the great collections.” 

Sir Leonard – who earnt a knighthood in 2017 for services to philanthropy – has become a prolific patron in recent years. 

The petrochemical magnate and owner of Warner Music Group gave £50 million to the Tate Modern, and a further £5 million to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Both named parts of their sites after him. 

He spent £45 million buying the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London’s West End, and donated £75 million to Oxford University to create the Blavatnik School of Government.  

The Blavatnik Institute at the Harvard Medical School was founded in 2018 following a $200 million (£148 million) contribution. Sir Leonard received his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1989. 

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