After her husband’s death, White created a foundation in his name that made considerable gifts to, among others, the Brooklyn Museum, the New York Botanical Garden and Lincoln Center. In 2006 she gave $200 million to New York University to help create the Institute for the Study of the Ancient Worldwhich operates in a townhouse her foundation bought near the Met.
In 2017, in a kind of crowning recognition, White was awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. The citation noted that “the multifaceted scope of her giving is always evolving.”
But even as she and her husband built a reputation for generosity, their fundraising drew criticism.
White and Levy began amassing their extensive collection of more than 700 antiques in the 1970s. At that time, to curb looting, countries began to adopt guidelines that discouraged the trade of objects that lacked ownership histories dating back to at least 1970. But it would be a long time before museums, dealers and private collectors fully embraced the new. practice, and White and Levy, like many others, accepted objects with limited provenance.
Beginning in 1993, the couple agreed to surrender 16 items after claims they were looted from an ancient Roman site in England. In 2008, White surrendered 10 objects to Italy and two to Greece. Italian investigators traced several of them to Giacomo Medici, an Italian accused in 2004 of smuggling illegal antiquities, and White and her husband bought some of those same ones from Robin Symes, a prominent British antiques dealer who later became involved in a series. of looted art research.
One of the returned items was a much-celebrated antiquity, a ship with scenes of Zeus and Herakles, attributed to the fifth-century BC painter Eucharides. It was part of the “Glories of the Past” exhibition at the Met in 1990.
“It’s amazing that so many pieces from that exhibition have now returned to Italy, Greece, Turkey, and so on,” said David Gill, an archaeologist and fellow at the Center for Heritage at the University of Kent in England.