Top Billionaire Art Collectors
The worlds of art and money have always been intertwined; each basking in the other's reflected luster. Today's billionaires are no different from the grand dukes and popes of the Renaissance or the merchants of 17th century Amsterdam. They buy art to appreciate it, to learn from it and to profit from it.
By profit, of course, we can mean both financially--these are, after all, people who know a thing or two about money--as well as culturally and socially. The end result of many a great collection is often the creation of a museum, or wing of a museum at any rate, which can benefit society for generations. (In fact, the nucleus of most of the world's great museums from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan began as a private collection.)
But who are these modern Medicis? Today's collectors come in all shapes, after all, as well as sizes, and while extremely rich not all are billionaires. There are those who buy iconic art, cocooned in privacy, like publisher S.I. Newhouse and hedge fund king Steven A. Cohen, and there are those who buy publicly, and in bulk, hoping to shape the landscape and move markets, as non-billionaire, British ad man Charles Saatchi did, and still does, in the U.K.
There are those whose tastes mold institutions, like cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder, who bought his first drawing, a work by Austrian Expressionist Egon Schiele, with money from his bar mitzvah and went on to fund and found the Neue Galerie New York to showcase German and Austrian art. Agnes Gund, whose family fell off the Forbes list of the 400 Richest Americans in 2000, served for over ten years as president of the Museum of Modern Art. Barnes & Noble (nyse: BKS - news - people ) founder and chairman Leonard Riggio, although also not a billionaire, is a champion of minimalist art and activist chairman of one of the great enablers of contemporary art, the DIA foundation.
Some billionaires make their own collections available to the interested, such as home building and insurance tycoon Eli Broad's Broad Art Foundation in Santa Monica, Calif., and, when it is completed in 2006, French retail giant Pinault-Printemps-Redoute's Francois Pinault's contemporary art foundation outside Paris.
In compiling a list of the billionaire art collectors, it was important to shift the focus onto those men and women who are true aficionados, not mere dabblers or enthusiastic amateurs. For that reason, Microsoft's (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) Bill Gates, for example, was left off. To be sure, the world's richest man can buy pretty much anything he likes, and has certainly spent a great deal of money doing so, most notably his 1994 purchase of Leonardo da Vinci's "Codex Leicester" for more than $30 million. While Gates continues to collect, his impact on the art market remains under the radar.
Also excluded is probably the world's single biggest art acquirer of recent years: Sheikh Saud al-Thani, who has spent something like $2 billion buying art for the five museums planned by his cousin, the Emir of Kuwait (He spent $1 million on one photograph, Gustave Le Gray's "Grande Vague a Sete"). But he would have been excluded anyway. The Emir canned him several days ago.
We have determined those billionaires for our list by playing by the rules of the international art market. Thus the individuals on whom we focus are those who collect with consistency, boundless appetites and the necessary billions to satisfy them. Fact: We have been living through an astounding boom--one that far surpasses its predecessor of the later 1980s. As with the 80s, much of the market is being made by the New Money. Indeed, many figures from that period remain active, like LBO master Henry Kravis and Gap (nyse: GPS - news - people ) chairman Donald Fisher.
Non-billionaires of that ilk include Donald Marron, former chief executive of Paine Webber; Frank Cohen, who sold his chain of do-it-yourself stores in the North of England; Wafic Said, a Damascus-born multi-millionaire and Saudi citizen, who lives rather well in the U.K., and who has collected Van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso; and Dakis Jouannou, a Greek industrialist who is founder of the Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art in Athens.
These are known figures, at least on the shadowy, high plateaux of the dealing world. What has that world currently agog--and following the bouncing ball of the prices--is the Newest of the New Money on the scene, namely the coming of the Hedge Funders. SAC Capital's Steven A. Cohen, of whom more below, has become, willy-nilly, the most high profile of these new collectors but there are plenty of up-and-comers, like Cohen's protégé David Ganek, who now runs hedge fund Level Global. So just consider the slide show a quick look at the upper echelon of collecting today. Tomorrow, of course, may be another story.
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