Works From Largest Private Collection of Female-Created Art to Be Displayed in Northwell Hospitals Starting May 19

Unseen works by Elaine de Kooning, Grace Spaulding John, Natalia Goncharova and Françoise Gilot are among 400 pieces collected over 30 years by Sandra & William Nicholson

Sven Gierlinger, William and Sandra Nicholson, Michael Dowling, Elaine Brennan. (Photo: Business Wire)

NEW YORK--()--The “Women Who Dared” art collection, the largest privately held collection of exclusively female-created works of art, will go on display at New York State’s largest health system – Northwell Health. The collection was meticulously assembled over 30 years by California-based collectors and philanthropists Sandra and William Nicholson. It features more than 400 pieces of visual art from female artists spanning 2,500 years and seven continents. The collection has never before been seen in public.

Starting May 19th, and as a tribute to its more than 50,000 female employees and the one million women it treats annually, Northwell will proudly display select pieces of work from the collection throughout its hospitals, including some 23 works on its Manhattan campuses: Lenox Hill Hospital, Lenox Health Greenwich Village and Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital.

The collection will be unveiled at an event held that same day at Lenox Hill Hospital to coincide with Women’s Health Month. The four paintings on display there include: John F. Kennedy (1963) by Elaine de Kooning, The Yellow Hat (1926) by Grace Spaulding John, Composizione Cubofuturista (1913) by Natalia Goncharova, and Flowers on a Yellow Field (1961) by Françoise Gilot.

“Art has been shown to heal, inspire and bring joy, and we believe it has the greatest impact in a health care setting where it can nurture patients and motivate staff,” said Mrs. Nicholson. “We are delighted to share our collection with Northwell to honor its legacy of contributions to the diverse communities it serves, and the distinguished service provided by their frontline health care and nursing professionals.”

Michael Dowling, Northwell’s president and CEO, and Elaine Brennan, executive director of Strategic Partnerships for the health system, expressed Northwell’s gratitude for the Nicholsons’ generosity and highlighted the health system’s long-standing commitment to women through innovative, gender-specific wellness programs.

“Women are the bedrock of healthy families and communities, but when it comes to their own health, they have been neglected for far too long. At Northwell, we have taken progressive steps over the past few decades to minimize gender-based health disparities,” said Mr. Dowling. “Featuring beautiful art by audacious women artists aligns with our goal to achieve meaningful progress in creating a more equitable health care environment.”

The Nicholsons also attended the event where they explained their reasons for amassing such a collection and their decision to have it be displayed in the health system. Their inspiration came through their travel overseas where they discovered that female artists were dramatically underrepresented in galleries and museums. Thirty years ago, less than 2 percent of art acquired by major museums was by women. By the mid-2010s, that number had increased only slightly to 11 percent. This is consistent with the lack of visibility and underrepresentation of female artists throughout history.

The thematically diverse “Women Who Dared” collection is not only historically and culturally significant, but it is a celebration of women by women. It’s important to the couple that the legacy of the collection continues to heal, educate and inspire others.

“We are sincerely grateful for the Nicholsons’ generosity. Exhibiting this incomparable art collection throughout Northwell is a natural fit that allows our employees, patients and communities to experience art representing a broad diversity of races, ethnicities and themes that echo their own backgrounds,” said Ms. Brennan. “The grit and perseverance of these pioneering women artists is personified by the unmatched strength of our female workforce. It is our hope that the collection will inspire the communities we serve to empower the women in their lives.”

At Northwell’s Manhattan facilities, the unique art pieces are featured in a variety of public settings – from the bustling hallways and the lively maternity floor to the tranquil prayer room and the emotionally-charged surgical waiting area. While the artwork chosen for Lenox Hill Hospital and Lenox Health Greenwich Village feature themes, such as women, flowers, water and pride, the series chosen for Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital highlights female Hispanic artists.

In addition to original works, the art is displayed in the form of wallpaper prints and digital frames. Select pieces are accompanied by celebrity narrations or musical compositions that can be accessed via QR code at the site of installation. The description for Portrait of John F. Kennedy, a graphite on paper composition by Elaine De Kooning, was recorded by actress and comedian Carol Burnett. De Kooning, an accomplished portrait and landscape artist active in the abstract expressionist movement of the early twentieth century, was hired to create JFK’s portrait for his library and spent a full year capturing his likeness in multiple drawings and paintings. Ms. Burnett, whose show business career has spanned seven decades, is passionate about supporting and celebrating women in the arts and personally chose to narrate this drawing because it was her favorite out of the entire collection. Artwork is also currently being installed at Northwell’s Katz Institute for Women’s Health locations at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park and North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.

Ardent supporters of health care workers, the Nicholsons were instrumental in creating Nurse Heroes, a non-profit organization with a philanthropic mission to celebrate nurses and provide scholarships and funding to promote and advance careers in nursing. Northwell was the beneficiary of the inaugural Nurse Heroes Live! Benefit concert on Thanksgiving Day 2020 with the Northwell Health Nurse Heroes Choir featured prominently alongside notable celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Celine Dion, Billy Crystal, Stevie Wonder, Carole King and Gloria Estefan.

Northwell Health is continuously redefining health care for women. Though women make up over half the population, they have long been understudied, undertreated and misdiagnosed. Much of what is known about treating the human body comes from studies of predominantly Caucasian, middle-aged men, but women’s bodies respond differently to health events and treatments than men’s. To change this prevalent status quo, Northwell created the Katz Institute for Women’s Health, a network of more than 170 experts within 60 medical specialties across 27 New York locations exclusively dedicated to raising every aspect of women’s health through access to exceptional care, specialized programs and events and female-focused clinical research. By investigating how various illnesses – such as heart disease and cancer – impact gender differently, Northwell strives to eliminate disparities and achieve similar health outcomes among men and women. The Institute’s vast resources empower, nurture and guide women through their unique wellness needs and concerns at every stage of life.

An overview of the “Women Who Dared” collection, a selection of art pieces and information on how to get involved can be found at

About Northwell Health

Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 23 hospitals, 830 outpatient facilities and more than 16,600 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 76,000 employees – 18,900 nurses and 4,800 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit and follow us @NorthwellHealth on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.


Margarita Oksenkrug
(212) 434-2456


Margarita Oksenkrug
(212) 434-2456