The Irvings gifted the Met’s Department of Asian Art 1,275 objects in 2015
, the year of the department’s centennial. Realizing that their gift would undoubtedly overlap with the Met’s prior Asian art holdings, the Irvings agreed that the museum could sell any of their donated works, provided the proceeds from the sale were put toward future acquisitions.
The couple had a longstanding relationship with the Met; Florence Irving was elected as a museum trustee in 1990, becoming a trustee emerita in 1996; the Met opened two galleries in the Asian Wing in the Irvings’ names in 1994 and 1997. They also endowed the Florence and Herbert Irving Curator of the Arts of South and Southeast Asia in 2011, currently held by John Guy. The couple first fell in love with Asian art at the Brooklyn Museum; their first piece was a Qianlong-period brush pot, but they later expanded their collection to include works from China, Japan, Korea, India, and elsewhere. Herbert Irving died in 2016, while Florence died last year at the age of 98.