Millions of dollars worth of American artwork was damaged or destroyed near the World Trade Center, but the giant blue "Modern Head" was unharmed save for a few scratches. The sculpture has been on loan outside the Washington museum since last year.
The Smithsonian Board of Regents on Monday formally approved the gift from Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. The museum had approached Loria about purchasing the work, but he instead offered to donate the piece, museum officials said.
"It's probably the most significant gift of art, in terms of value of the artwork, to the Smithsonian," said Wayne Clough, secretary of the museum complex.
Museum officials would not reveal the value of the artwork but said it's significance extends beyond Sept. 11, 2001.
"As an artwork itself, it's unique," said George Gurney, the museum's deputy chief curator in noting it was the only blue sculpture of a series.
The painted stainless steel sculpture was created in 1989, part of a series that depict human figures resembling machines.
Lichtenstein used abstract geometric forms similar to 1930s art deco design. In 1990, he painted the particular sculpture blue and left the others unpainted.