As a collector of contemporary art and museum patron, David Teiger (1929–2014) drew considerable inspiration from curators, who work with artists and collections to shape their organizations and engage in the pressing conversations of their time. Teiger placed a premium on empowering curators to pursue their creative and intellectual projects despite institutional resistance to work considered difficult or controversial. Founded in 2008 with a purposely open and flexible program, Teiger Foundation—with a Board including Teiger himself, Gary Garrels, Kati Lovaas, John Silberman, and Joel Wachs—supported such challenging curatorial projects as September 11 at MoMA PS1 in 2011, The Air We Breathe at SFMOMA in 2011–2012, the exhibition Pier 54 presented by High Line Art in 2014, and Laura Poitras: Astro Noise at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2016.
Upon his passing in 2014, Teiger bequeathed his collection of contemporary art to the Foundation. In accordance with his wishes, select works from the collection were directly gifted to public institutions. The majority, however, were sold at public auction to endow Teiger Foundation and enable it to expand its support of contemporary art and curatorial work to a significantly greater degree. Currently the Foundation has approximately $140 million in assets, and plans to gift a minimum of five million dollars yearly in support of a spectrum of innovative curatorial work.
In December 2020, Larissa Harris was named the Foundation’s inaugural Executive Director. Under her leadership, Teiger Foundation is developing new grantmaking processes and programmatic initiatives that cohere with the Teiger Foundation’s tradition and drive its evolution. While continuing to reward individual creative voices, the foundation also values curatorial collaborations within and beyond the walls of art organizations and work that channels community interests. The Foundation is exploring ways to break down barriers limiting access for curators from backgrounds historically underrepresented in contemporary art and to support exhibitions and organizations in reducing carbon emissions. Working with a network of advisors, Teiger Foundation will also expand its current primary funding focus on the US to include international curators and organizations.