Since Lever House was purchased and refurbished by RFR Realty in 1998, the glass-enclosed lobby has been the location for numerous contemporary art exhibitions. The landmark modern building, designed by Gordon Bunshaft and completed in 1952, offers a clean, pristine, and highly visible space for the presentation of art.
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, and also designed the marble seating now in place on the plaza).
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.
The goal of the Lever House Art Collection is to form an exciting and impressive collection of art created in the early twenty-first century, and to recognize outstanding artists of aesthetic significance. It is planned to organize an international museum tour of the Collection, accompanied by a major publication.