5 of the Biggest Billionaire Art Collections

The terms “starving” and “artist” frequently go together.  Though they may slave away their entire lives, sacrificing their relationships, reputations, and occasionally their mental reasoning, artists rarely live to see even the smallest fruits of their labor, let alone the hammer going down at Christie’s for $82.5 million.  The pieces that go up for auction at such high prices are created by talented artists, that are then studied and evaluated by art historians, to then be offered up by auction houses.  The most astounding part about the sale however, the price, often comes down to one individual: the art collector.

Art collectors have been around for centuries and have taken many forms; from kings and emperors, to wealthy bankers and merchants, to novelists and academics.  Many of these peopled possessed wealth, but more importantly, many truly loved art.  They wanted to further their favorite artists’ careers while also exhibiting their great power and refined taste.

What this resulted in is the vibrant and dynamic art market we have today, but what truly catapulted the art market into the stratosphere was the appearance of billionaires.

On average, billionaires spend approximately 0.5 percent of their net worth on art.  This means that for every $1 billion they possess, $5 million is spent on art; which is a lot for something that is unnecessary for survival but it’s an amount that is not exactly astronomical either.  However, if you truly want to become a top art collector in the world, you have to put your money where your gaze lies.  The art collectors with the largest, most prestigious, and most expensive art collections have invested at least 10 percent of their respective net worths in their collections.  However, some billionaires love art so much and consider it such an important investment that anywhere from 20 to nearly 100 percent of their net worths lie in their art collections.

Here are The 5 Billionaires Richest in Art.

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5 Leon Black, 22.1% of net worth = $750 million worth of art

Leon Black may specialize in private equity, backed by his knowledge obtained at the Harvard Business School, but a number of decades ago he was a philosophy and history student at Dartmouth.  This liberal arts education combined with a mother who was an artist and an aunt who was a gallery owner ensured that Black would have a refined taste for fine art.  One of his most notable purchases is a pastel from Edvard Munch’s series The Scream, a series of two paintings and two pastels that are among the most iconic works of modern art.  Black’s entire collection is worth $750 million and The Scream pastel alone cost him $120 million, making him a very fervent collector.

4 Doris F. Fisher, 34.8% of net worth = $800 million worth of art

Doris Fisher is someone else who, like David Geffen, was able to mix creativity and business with immense success.  A co-founder of The Gap (her husband being the other founder), Fisher has also been named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes and by our account would be named the most powerful female art collector and an influence on the art scene.  Her collection is vast, containing more than 1000 works by nearly 200 different artists and is worth $800 million.  Even better is that Fisher has decided not to keep these works hidden away amongst various estate properties, but instead has decided to exhibit her work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in a new wing for all to enjoy.

3 Norman Braman, 56.3% of net worth = $900 million worth of art

The man who has sold pharmaceutical products and cars and was once the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles is also a regular attendee of Art Basel.  Over the years, Norman Braman and his wife have collected artworks by remarkable artists such as Picasso, Alexander Calder, and Andy Warhol.  However, they are not only about big names; they are incredibly knowledgeable about art and know their own taste well.  They are only satisfied with a piece if they regard it as a strong work by the artist and if they are certain they can live with it (in one of their many homes).  Not content to simply remain art collectors, the Bramans also assisted in establishing Art Basel in Miami.

2 Nasser Khalili, 93.0% of net worth = $930 million worth of art

Nasser Khalili, a scholar and former art dealer, clearly believes that the best investment is art.  An international man of mystery, he is an Iranian-born British citizen that for some time was believed to be managing the art collection of the Sultan of Brunei, the richest man in the world, but this was denied and only increased his aura of mystery.  A 20,000 piece collection of Islamic art makes Khalili’s one of the biggest private collections in the world, and he regularly loans pieces to museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) and the British Museum (London).  As if sharing his magnificent collection weren't enough, he also lectures at universities and is the chair of his own department at the University of London, Islamic Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies.  With $930 million of his $1 billion net worth invested in art, Nasser Khalili is by far our most ardent and knowledgeable art collector.  His collection, knowledge, and passion are simply unparalleled.

1 David Lawrence Geffen, 20.0% of net worth = $1.1 billion worth of art

There is no question that David Geffen has always had an interest in the arts.  As a film and record producer, and most notably as one of the creators of DreamWorks, Geffen has ensured that his legacy in the music and film industries will live on for quite some time.  However, not one to put all of his eggs into one industry, he began collecting fine art at a young age and has never ceased.   With 20 percent of his net worth invested in art, his art collection is valued at $1.1 billion, a staggering amount and definitely the highest valued collection in the world.  He receives credit for being an early collector of artists like Pollock and de Kooning, and for owning the record-breaking No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock, a painting that he sold  in 2006 for $140 million.

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