Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Hank McNeil

Henry (Hank) McNeil of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is an art collector, philanthropist, and conservationist.

Featured for more than five years on ARTnews magazine’s list of the “World’s Top 200 Collectors,” McNeil’s museum-quality collection of contemporary art includes the work of Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin, Richard Tuttle, Carl Andre and Minimalist sculptor Donald Judd.  He opens his Center City Philadelphia home and collection to groups of curators from around the world.

Hank McNeil’s presentation of six Sol LeWitt works to Chestnut Hill Academy in 2001 represents the third-largest standing exhibition of LeWitt’s work in the United States.  (McNeil encouraged LeWitt to conceive a seventh work especially for the school, to be executed by the students.)  View video here of the 2011 art conservation showing students working together on the piece.

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Winslow Farms Conservancy preserved 600 acres from development pressures and transformed an abandoned clay quarry and dump into wildlife habitat, an artful landscape, organic farm, training ground and acclaimed field trial location for champion retrievers.

McNeil’s interests in the arts, landscape architecture, environmental issues, wildlife preservation,  and sustainability practices combined in an unusual conservation and land reclamation project in Winslow, New Jersey, within the boundaries of the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve.  Now known as WInslow Farms Conservancy, McNeil’s project preserved 600 acres from development pressures.

The landmark project was completed with Martha Schwartz of Martha Schwartz Partners, one of the world’s most innovative landscape architects and artists.  (Click here for pdf of Philadelphia Inquirer article on the project.)   It is featured in two books about Schwartz’s work, The Vanguard Landscapes and Gardens of Martha Schwartz (Thames & Hudson 2004) and Recycling Spaces: The Work of Martha Schwartz Partners (ORO Imprint/Thames & Hudson, 2011).  For more information about the Winslow Farms Conservancy, click here.

Using innovative techniques to keep costs down and incorporate recycled materials, the project restored wildlife habitat and transformed an abandoned clay quarry and trash dump into an artful landscape of vistas and water features that serves as scenic retreat, organic farm, and host to training and field trials for retriever dogs, another of McNeil’s interests.

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Image from The Retriever News, Hank McNeil was the first handler in the modern history of the sport to win the National Amateur Retriever Championship twice

Henry McNeil has been interested in the sport since the 1970s.  He won the National Amateur Retriever Championship twice, the first person to do so in the modern history of the sport.  McNeil and his black Labrador, Babe (NAFC-FC Candlewoods Bit o’ Bunny), made a legendary team.  Babe was a national finalist 11 times and had three double-header wins, was high point open bitch, and won an unequaled seven Amateur stakes in a row.

His dog, Bullet (NFC-AFC ROBBER’S STRAY BULLET – 42 PTS), is the first dog to win the High Point Open title for the Retriever News three years in a row. He is also the first dog to win the prestigious Purina Open dog award three consecutive years. (His sire, Creek Robber, won three out of four years). He is the only dog to have finished the last three National Opens. Bullet also has a passion for popcorn-catching.

Promoting the Arts

Hank McNeil has served on the boards of some of the world’s leading institutions:  the Institute of Contemporary Art, affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania and one of the nation’s leading organizations dedicated to modern art with a mission to showcase the work of emerging artists (ICA was the first museum to exhibit the work of Andy Warhol, Robert Indiana, and Agnes Martin); the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the largest museums in the United States; and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, one of the top veterinary schools in the world. Additionally, he’s served on the Collectors Committee of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., one of the world’s premier art museums, featuring masterworks by renowned American and European artists, including the largest mobile ever created by Alexander Calder.

McNeil is an avid supporter of the groundbreaking New York contemporary music group Bang on a Can.  One of its founders is his close personal friend, composer David Lang, who won a Pulitzer Prize in music and a Grammy Award in 2010 for “Best Small Ensemble Performance” for The Little Match Girl Passion.  Founded in 1987 by artists who identified the need to break down barriers to creativity between the various schools of contemporary music, Bang on a Can strives to support composers just beginning their careers.  The organization’s festivals have, since their start in the East Village, made their way to Alice Tully Hall at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the New Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  With the support of individuals such as McNeil, Bang on a Can has assembled a group of solo musicians who, together, have produced award-winning music and tour internationally.

He’s also involved with the percussion-based music group Sō Percussion, which seeks to create a new model of egalitarian artistic collaboration that respects history, champions innovation and curiosity, and creates a social bond through service.

He is co-director of the affectionately-named Camp Kippy, the foremost art think tank in the world, founded by his dear friend, the extraordinary Marion “Kippy” Stroud. Every summer the camp attracts Nobel Prize winners, McArthur geniuses, and exceptional talents from the fields of science, art, dance, music and more to Maine for inspiration, collaboration and creative cross-pollination. He continues to support the artistic vision of  Philadelphia’s The Fabric Workshop and Museum, an experimental workspace Kippy founded in 1977.

He is a benefactor of The Chinati Foundation and the Judd Foundation, both based in Marfa, Texas.  Located on 340 acres, the Chinati Foundation is a contemporary art site based upon the ideas of its founder, Donald Judd.  It strives to preserve and present permanent large-scale installations and contemporary art.  It has established close working relationships with the local community, including establishing a renowned Artists in Residence program and offering students an interdisciplinary, hands-on learning experience through its internship program.  The Judd Foundation works to preserve the archives, living and working spaces of art critic, theorist, and Minimalist sculptor Donald Judd.

Hank McNeil has also contributed to the Storm King Art Center, New York.  Founded in 1960 and steward of 500 acres of woodlands, fields, and lawns, the Storm King Art Center carefully selects postwar sculptures by internationally established artists, with considerable thought toward the interaction between the pieces and their surrounding natural context.  He also supports the Byrd Hoffman Watermill Foundation (New York), The Fabric Workshop and Museum (Pennsylvania), and the world-famous Tate Museum (United Kingdom), each of which promotes recent developments contemporary art and encourages emerging artists.

Expanding Horizons

A father himself, Hank McNeil also assists the Philadelphia Youth Organization, affecting the lives of more than 1,900 children through a variety of programs that include athletics, summer employment, cultural and performance arts opportunities.  The organization takes a multidisciplinary approach to its work, pursuing any advantageous means of reaching the youth of Philadelphia, more than 200,000 of whom live in under-served communities.

Committed to connecting children with the outdoors and environmental education, McNeil also supports Dragonfly Forest, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing fulfilling camp experiences to children with serious disorders and illnesses.  He is also a regular contributor to the educational missions of Springside School and Chestnut Hill Academy, two premier private schools in Philadelphia.

McNeil enthusiastically supports the mission of Friends of the Wissahickon, a nonprofit entity founded in 1924 and today dedicated to monitoring water quality issues, elimination of invasive plant species, trail maintenance, and restoration of historical structures throughout the Wissahickon Valley, a National Natural Landmark and beloved natural and recreational resource.

McNeil lives with his two children in the Rittenhouse neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Note:  Hank McNeil has a specific group of organizations whose missions he supports.  He does not accept blind requests for donations/grants/funding.  No queries.
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