The Lever House was designed by Gordon Bunshaft for the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and completed in 1952. It was built as the international headquarters for Lever Brothers Company, a manufacturer of commercial soaps and detergents.
Since Lever House was purchased and was fully restored by RFR Holding in 1998, the glass-enclosed lobby has hosted numerous contemporary art exhibitions.
The first few exhibitions at Lever House were temporary loan shows, borrowed directly from artists and galleries, including Alexander Calder, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Stephan Balkenhol, and Isamu Noguchi (who designed an unrealized sculpture garden for the original plan).
Beginning in 2003, RFR President Aby Rosen and private dealer Alberto Mugrabi conceived the idea of forming the Lever House Art Collection. It was decided to invite artists to create artworks specifically for the Lever House lobby which would be on extended view for approximately three months, and then purchased for the Collection. Original curator Richard D. Marshall directed the program from 2003 to 2014. In 2017, Roya Sachs became curator of Lever House Art Collection, bringing a new generation of artists into the collection.
The first commission was a neon installation by Keith Sonnier that delineated and illuminated the geometric architecture of the lobby. Subsequent commission included ambitious works by Jorge Pardo, John Chamberlain, Damien Hirst's Virgin Mother (installed on the plaza), Peter Wegner, Barnaby Furnas, Jeff Koons, E.V. Day, Sarah Morris, Folkert de Jong, Enoc Perez, Tom Friedman, Damien Hirst's School, Richard Dupont, Tom Sachs (with a 22-foot tall HELLO KITTY on the plaza), Liza Lou, Katherine Bernhardt, Reginald Sylvester II, Adam Pendleton, and Peter Halley.