Newport Man's Lasting Legacy to Modern Art - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Newport Man's Lasting Legacy to Modern Art

 Burlington, Vermont - November 8, 2009

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City is world renowned for its collection of Picasso, Monet and Warhol. So when it was announced early last month that Michael Dunn, a Newport man with no formal connection to the museum, had left a record donation of over ten million dollars in his will, the news rocked the art world.

"Stunned disbelief," was MoMA Director Glenn Lowry's first reaction. "Not only did he leave us north of ten million dollars, he left it utterly unrestricted which means that we can apply it to any and every area that we need support," he said.

Dunn, like Lowry, owned a house on Lake Memphremagog. But Lowry says even though he bicycled past it numerous times over the years, he had no idea who the owner was. "If you had told me that there is a multi-millionaire in Newport, Vermont interested in Modern Art you would have been able to knock me down with a feather," he said.

Steve Marsh, President of Community National Bank in Derby, met Dunn nearly 30 years ago, shortly after he moved to the Newport area from Montreal, and the two became good friends. "I don't think anybody was aware of the magnitude of his investments. He kept that personal because it was a personal thing for him. I'm not sure Michael even knew what he was worth. I don't think he thought about that," Marsh said.

Marsh says Dunn loved to cook for friends - seafood bisque was a specialty. He shopped at Walmart and Costco and lived modestly. "Michael was not a flashy person. He didn't want to be in the forefront and he did things he really wanted to do, but he didn't make a splash," Marsh said.

The former stockbroker lived alone and collected Canadian Art, rare books and duck decoys among other things. Marsh says that Dunn hinted about his plans to donate money, but he gave no specifics. " I think he liked the surprise factor. I think that was important to him. I think he wanted to make a difference somewhere and I think that is exactly what he did - it's his legacy," Marsh said. "And I think that he would enjoy the commotion he's caused."

In a second floor gallery of the Museum of Modern Art, with paintings of Monet's water lilies hanging nearby, a plaque on the wall now marks the remarkable legacy of Newport's Michael Dunn.

Alexei Rubenstein - WCAX News

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