CONTEMPORARY ART COLLECTORS
The collectors who really matter to the history of art are not necessarily the very richest or even the most acquisitive says Martin Bailey in Apollo Magazine:
They are those who by their example set standards for others, encourage interest in the art they collect and share their treasures with the public. In short, the collectors of greatest importance are those who wield the greatest influence.
Of APOLLO’S list of the 20 most influential collectors today, 10 collect contemporary work. Here is a list with some brief ntoes. For more information see the full article go to Apollo Top 20 most influential art collectors.
Post-war and contemporary Nationality: American Age: 75 Source of wealth: Property and insurance
Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe, began to collect modern and contemporary art in the 1970s, and have amassed one of America’s greatest private collections. They have nearly 2,000 pieces.
Broad was also the founding chairman of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. He has given $26m to help build a Zaha Hadid-designed art museum at Michigan State University; building work is due for completion in 2010.
EUGENIO LOPEZ ALONSO
Latin American and international contemporary Nationality: Mexican Age: 40 Source of wealth: Food processing
Eugenio Lopez inherited the Jumex fruit juice business. Although relatively young, he has amassed one of the largest private collections of modern Latin American art. Lopez’s collection comprises 1,500 works, half Latin American and half international.
Contemporary Art Nationality: French Age: 71 Source of wealth: Luxury goods
Starting by collecting early modernism, Francois Pinault quickly moved into post-war American painting and finally into contemporary art. In 1998 he purchased a controlling share in Christie’s, which puts him in the centre of the art world. Pinault has long wanted to display his collection, now comprising 2,500 works. After scrapping plans for a museum in a former Renault factory on Ile Seguin, in the Seine in western Paris, he took over Palazzo Grassi in Venice, which reopened in 2006. Even more ambitiously, the Francois Pinault Foundation is transforming Venice’s Punta della Dogana (customs building) into a contemporary art centre, which is due to open in June 2009 for the Biennale.
Contemporary Art Nationality: Ukrainian Age: 47 Source of wealth: Steel
Viktor Pinchuk’s collecting began in the early 1990s with Russian impressionism. He subsequently developed the idea of opening a public display, and turned towards contemporary art, feeling that this would be more popular. In September 2006 the Victor Pinchuk Foundation opened the Pinchuk Art Centre in Kiev, which is one of the largest public galleries for contemporary art in eastern Europe. Owning 300 works, it comprises both Ukrainian and international art. In January Peter Doroshenko became its artistic director (he is an American of Ukrainian background and formerly director of the Baltic in Gateshead, northern England). Among Pinchuk’s recent purchases is Koons’s Hanging Heart, for which he paid $24m.
LEKHA & ANUPAM PODDAR
Indian Art Nationality: Indian Age: unknown; 34 Source of wealth: Paper industry and hotels
Lekha Poddar, from Delhi, began collecting in the late 1970s and her son Anupam in 2000. Together they recently set up the Devi Art Foundation. They now have 7,000 works of Indian art, ranging from tribal to contemporary (with some from neighbouring countries).
DON & MERA RUBELL
Contemporary Art Nationality: American Age: 66; unknown Source of wealth: Inheritance and hotels
Based in Miami Beach, the Rubells began to collect in the 1960s, and after receiving an inheritance in 1989 were able to expand their ambitions, both to build the collection and open it to the public. Their daughter and son, Jennifer and Jason (and Jason’s wife, Michelle), are closely involved, which explains why it is known as the Rubell Family Collection. In 1996 their Contemporary Arts Foundation opened a public space in a former Drug Enforcement Agency warehouse in Wynwood, north Miami, to show a changing selection of works in 27 rooms. The collection now comprises over 5,000 pieces. The Rubells particularly enjoy discovering up-and-coming artists.
Contemporary Art Nationality: British Age: 65 Source of wealth: Advertising
Charles Saatchi is probably Europe’s most powerful collector of contemporary art. With his first wife, Doris Lockhart, he began with American abstraction in the 1970s. In 1985 he opened his first public gallery, in Boundary Road, north London. By the end of the decade he had turned to British artists, later commissioning Hirst’s ‘Shark’ and buying Emin’s ‘Bed’ and the Chapman Brothers’ Hell Having become the leading patron of the Young British Artists (YBAS), he shot to fame with his controversial ‘Sensation’ exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1997, which then toured to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. In 2003 his gallery moved from Boundary Road to County Hall, where it remained for two years. His current space is in the King’s Road, Chelsea, in a converted army barracks.
Saatchi not only buys, but also sells, so his collection is constantly evolving. He owns around 3,000 works. Although wanting the public to enjoy his art, he remains a rather private figure.
SAUD AL-THANI–Eclectic, but particularly Islamic and natural history Nationality: Qatari Age 41 Source of wealth: Family wealth
Sheikh Saud al-Thani is a cousin of the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. As chairman of the country’s National Council for Culture, Arts and Heritage, he was responsible for buying for a group of new museums that are being set up in the capital, Doha. However, it has often been unclear whether his purchases were for the national museums or his personal collection. The scope of his purchases is enormous, ranging from antiquities to 20th-century furniture. Money is no problem. Saud al-Thani’s current personal role in collecting is unclear, but other members of the family are voracious buyers.
19th-century English to contemporary art Nationality: Canadian Age: 51 Source of wealth: Media
David Thomson, the 3rd Lord Thomson, is the son of the media owner Kenneth Thomson, who died in 2006. Kenneth Thomson was a very major donor to the Art Gallery of Ontario, to which he gave 2,000 works in 2002.
Chinese contemporary art Nationality: Belgian Age: 73 Source of wealth: Food processing
Baron Guy Ullens is of Belgian origin, but resident in Switzerland. He began to collect classical Chinese painting while on business trips to China, but in the 1980s, together with his wife, Myriam, he branched out into Chinese contemporary art-famously selling his paintings by Turner to finance his purchases. Today he owns one of the world’s finest collections, with 2,000 works.
In November 2007 Ullens opened a permanent space in a restored military factory in Beijing, the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art. It has changing displays, with works from the Ullens collection and outside loans (including international art).
- Who is buying Chinese art? The Mugrabi family is – Mar 2009 – NYT
- Saatchi Middle East exhibition – which artists are critic favourites? – Feb 2009
- India’s first art museum Devi employs students as curators – Livemint – Jan 2009
- New non-proft museum Devi ground-breaking first for India – NYT – Sep 2008
- Billionnaires from Russia, Middle East new in top 10 list of collectors – June 2008 – ArtNews