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Philip Morris Companies receives award for continued art sponsorship from Whitney Museum of American Art

The selection of the tobacco corporation as first winner is testament to its long-term relationship with the museum

The Whitney Museum of American Art has established an honorary award to be given annually “to an individual or representatives of an organisation who have made a significant contribution to the arts in America through a sustained commitment to the diversity, quality and originality of American artistic achievement”. The first winner is Philip Morris Companies Inc, cited for “nearly thirty-five years of support for the arts”.

The tobacco company is a particularly apt choice for the Whitney’s Board of Trustees. Former Philip Morris Chairman and CEO, George Weissman, has been a Whitney trustee since 1979. During his tenure the corporation opened a Whitney branch in its midtown headquarters. The award comes as the museum’s other two Manhattan off-site sponsors, IBM and The Equitable, have terminated the museum’s lease. Cartier Inc has underwritten production of the award itself, designed and produced by artist Richard Artschwager.

• Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper under the headline "Tobacco sponsorship of the arts applauded by the Whitney"