5 of the World’s Most Impressive Private Art Collections
You may be tempted to think that the world’s finest works of art are all kept in galleries and museums where they can be enjoyed by the masses, but this is actually far from the case. Art collecting is a popular hobby among the ultra-rich, enabling high-net-worth individuals to not only not only enjoy works by their favorite artists in their own homes, but make shrewd investments that could pay off in dividends if and when they decide to sell.
This article looks at a selection of important and impressive private art collections from around the world.
1. Charles Saatchi
This art collector and dealer requires little introduction, having earned a reputation as one of the contemporary art scene’s most prominent figures. Over the course of 20 years, Charles Saatchi has worked with some of the greatest artists of modern times, building up a priceless collection of fine art.
Incorporating works by Andy Warhol, Anselm Kiefer, Donald Judd, Julian Schnabel, and Sol LeWitt, Saatchi’s collection has been placed online for all to enjoy. The Saatchi Gallery is a pioneer in digital art curation, providing a platform where artists can sign up and sell their own works, creating a unique model to support creatives all over the world by expanding the art business.
2. Bernard Arnault
The CEO and chairman of the LVMH Group, Bernard Arnault is perhaps better known for his Moët & Chandon and Louis Vuitton brands. The richest man in Europe today, Arnault has amassed an astounding collection of fine art over the years. He is also the founder of the Louis Vuitton Foundation, an organization established to support the curation and creation of contemporary art.
Born to an industrial French family, Bernard Arnault grew up in Lille. He embarked on a career in construction, rising through the ranks. Subsequently, he took charge of a holding company, transforming its fortune and returning it to profitability.
As the owner of some of the world’s most exclusive luxury brands, Arnault’s total assets are estimated at around $100 billion. Inaugurated in 2014 at a cost of circa $135 million, the Louis Vuitton Foundation is housed in Bois de Boulogne, Paris; a building designed by Frank Gehry that once housed France’s Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions. Arnault’s collection is rich in post-war and contemporary works, featuring pieces by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Damien Hirst.
3. Queen Elizabeth II
Indisputably the world’s most important private art collection, the Royal Collection is personally owned by the British monarch. Among its most prominent pieces are The Massacre of the Innocents by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Shipbuilder and his Wife by Rembrandt, and the Raphael Cartoons. Many of the collection’s masterpieces are on loan to museums across the UK, enabling the public to enjoy them.
The largest private collection in existence today, the Royal Collection is managed by the Royal Collection Trust. Valued at more than $8 billion, featuring works by the Old Masters, the Royal Collection includes more than one million objects, including 7,000 paintings and 30,000 drawings and watercolors, as well as ceramics, sculptures, tapestries, textiles, furniture, clocks, manuscripts, weapons, armor, and jewelry.
4. Ezra and David Nahmad
Valued at around $3 billion, this expansive collection is jointly owned by the Nahmad brothers, who, according to the chairman of Christie’s New York, have “sold more art than anybody alive.”
The Nahmad brothers’ collecting strategy is simple: make a profit. They purchase fine art, hold it in a warehouse until its value appreciates, then sell, generating impressive yields. Rather than trading in art for the love of it, they treat art as a commodity to be traded for profit.
While few other art dealers can afford to hold more than a dozen or so paintings at a time before selling, the Nahmads stockpile masterpieces, holding onto them for a while, then selling for far more than they paid. They currently have around 300 pieces by Picasso alone. Jeffrey Deitch, director of LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art once described the brothers as akin to a “brokerage firm in the stock market,” explaining that the art market “needs a force like this to function.”
5. Philip Niarchos
When Stavros Niarchos died, the shipping magnate left his eldest son Philip an extensive art collection. Purchased from the actor Edward G. Robinson in 1957 for $3 million, the collection included some of the world’s most valuable and recognizable pieces.
Philip Niarchos has added to the collection over the years, focusing largely on post-war and contemporary pieces by Maurizio Cattelan and Andy Warhol. With a net worth estimated at around $2.2 billion today, the Niarchos art collection reputedly includes the largest private stockpile of Van Gogh paintings. Its most notable paintings include Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, which set Niarchos Sr. back a cool $71.5 in 1989. Other important pieces include Shot Red Marilyn by Andy Warhol, which cost Philip Niarchos $3.3 million in 1994, and Warhol’s Green Burning Car I, for which he reportedly paid $17 million.