The artnet News Index: The World’s Top 100 Art Collectors for 2016, Part One

Who’s shaping the art world in 2016?

by Artnet News

To see the second 50 collectors, published June 15, 2016, see “The artnet News Index: The World’s Top 100 Art Collectors for 2016, Part Two.”

Here it is, artnet News’s roundup of the world’s top 100 collectors. Once again, we’ve pulled together an encyclopedic museum’s worth of art trade resources to arrive at what we believe to be the world’s most essential inventory of major art collectors. How is this year’s review of the world’s top collectors different from other lists? For one, our 2016 grouping is more compact, extensive, and better researched than previous rosters. Additionally, the list is also remarkably detailed and up to date, incorporating some of the latest movements major collectors have made around the globe—as told to artnet News—over the intervening 12 months.

Today’s top art collectors are an evolving lot. At once more global, wealthier, more interconnected, and politically exposed than ever, they sit atop an unequal and stagnant world economy (thanks to slow growth, falling commodity prices, currency devaluations, and general economic and political malaise) that increasingly buttons them as a privileged elite. Perhaps for this reason, today’s Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) collectors increasingly behave like startled grizzly bears. While these art world predators still throw plenty of weight around, at pivotal moments—read, this year’s spring auctions—they appear unsure of whether to gorge or hibernate for the winter.

Related: artnet News’s Top 200 Art Collectors Worldwide for 2015, Part One

Times have changed—somewhat—since the frothy highs of 2015, when Liu Yiqian, a former taxi driver turned-billionaire art collector with two private Shanghai art museums, bought Amadeo Modigliani’s Nu Couché (1917–18) at Christie’s November sale for $170 million, and a second, less-public buyer shelled out $70 million for Cy Twombly’s Untitled (New York City) (1968) at Sotheby’s. Last year, both auction houses jointly raked in $2.3 billion in just 10 days. Since then, auction results have slipped drastically—sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s dropped roughly 60 percent in 2016—framed by a newly chastened art market that has been described by experts as “softening,” “tepid,” “thinning” or, more prosaically, undergoing “a correction.”

Yet, despite these adjustments at the top of the food chain, covetous art collectors around the world continue to defy predictions of an art-market bust. In a less flashy repeat of last year, Japanese fashion mogul Yusaku Maezawa dropped $98 million in just two days in May for works that included a $57.3 million Jean-Michel Basquiat and a $2.6 million self-portrait by Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie. Proving, once again, that even in an economy where Wall Street bonuses have dipped and the supply of rare luxury goods has crept up, deep-pocketed buyers like Maezawa and others on the artnet News Index can make outsize impressions on the market.

According to a recent survey conducted by Bank of America US Trust, “Insights On Wealth and Worth Survey,” “collectors still overwhelmingly buy art for aesthetic and lifestyle reasons, but they are increasingly interested in how their art behaves as a capital asset.” The same study states that a large number of collectors, including younger patrons and the so-called UHNW (the $10-million-plus club), are more “likely to enjoy the community of other collectors on the ‘global circuit.’” Translation: Despite all the talk of art fair exhaustion, it seems the vast majority of art collectors still like an arty party.

Related: artnet News’s Top 200 Art Collectors Worldwide for 2015, Part Two

There are several other patterns that may be drawn from making this list, but one impression above all appears especially relevant now. That is, namely, the sense that even if today’s art buying may have come down to earth from previously stratospheric heights, the boldface names on our essential artnet News Index remain singularly devoted to art collecting as a passion, a financial store, a philanthropic venture, and a social activity.

A few other conclusions can be drawn from the results of this year’s collector Index. Firstly, the thoroughgoing globalization of art collecting continues apace, as demonstrated by the inclusion of new collectors from Africa and South Asia. Secondly, the trend toward the building of private museums is not only growing, it has exploded geographically, traveling like a viral meme from cities like Miami, Dallas, and Vienna to Jakarta, Chonquing, and Henningsvær, near the Arctic Circle. And thirdly—and perhaps most importantly—this year has seen a strengthening of renewable collector activity oriented toward stable value and away from fast profit. Here’s the same idea in a soundbite: 2016 is the year of the collector, not the speculator.

Without further ado, then, we present this year’s artnet News Index, 2016’s essential guide to global collectors encompassing the insights and analysis of the entire editorial team as well as the advice of industry experts including art dealers and advisers. Without a doubt, the individuals on this list will continue to shape the face of the international art market for the next 12 months and, in all probability, for years to come. Enjoy.

To read the second 50 collectors, published June 15, 2016, see “The artnet News Index: The World’s Top 100 Art Collectors for 2016, Part Two.

Roman Abramovich and Dasha Zhukova. Photo courtesy the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art.

1. Roman Abramovich and Dasha Zhukova (Russia)
Zhukova is a world-class “tastemaker” and the more active partner of Russia’s most powerful art collecting “It” couple. In the past few years she has also become a pioneering arts institution-builder. In 2008, she launched Moscow’s Garage Museum for Contemporary Art. With Abramovich, she is set to open “New Holland,” a 19-acre cultural complex set on an artificial island in Saint Petersburg (coming in August). Among the exhibitions Zhukova has underwritten at Garage in the last year are shows by Taryn SimonRashid Johnson, and Urs Fischer. Her collection contains thousands of contemporary artworks. Her husband, the owner of England’s legendary Chelsea Football Club, prefers modern and Impressionist trophies. Abramovich is said to have bought an Edgar Degas pastel for $26.5 million, a 1976 Francis Bacon triptych for $86.3 million, and a Lucian Freud painting for $33.6 million.

2. Paul Allen (United States) NEW!
A new addition to the list, Allen has received a great deal of ink this past year. The Seattle-based collector and founder of Microsoft opened a new non-profit, Pivot Art + Culture, in December. The billionaire also organized a five-museum touring exhibition of his collection. Titled “Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection,” the show debuted at Oregon’s Portland Museum of Art before traveling to the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC (in 2016, it will travel to the Minneapolis Museum of Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Seattle Art Museum). Additionally, Allen’s company, Vulcan, will produce the second edition of the well-received Seattle Art Fair. Allen is also looking into opening a museum of pop culture, possibly in Washington, DC.

(L to R) Nita and Isha Ambani. Courtesy of the Ambanis.

3. Mukesh and Nita Ambani (India) NEW!
India’s richest couple controls a $20 billion family fortune that has lately turned to art collecting and funding art exhibitions related to their homeland. In 2015, Nita Ambani’s Reliance Foundation—named after Reliance Industries, her husband’s textile and petroleum empire—sponsored a show of Hindu paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago. In March, the foundation was the biggest sponsor of the Met Breuer’s retrospective of Indian artist Nasreen MohamediAccording to the Wall Street Journal, Nita Ambani is “planning a museum of her own in India, where large, institutional venues containing the latest climate-control technologies remain scarce.”

Robbie Antonio. Photo courtesy Revolution Precrafted.

4. Robbie Antonio (Philippines)
Among the biggest art collectors in the Philippines, this young real estate tycoon began by amassing portraits of himself by the likes of Marilyn Minter, Julian Schnabel, and the Bruce High Quality Foundation to adorn his Rem Koolhas-designed Manila home. Recently, Antonio transitioned to blue chip purchases by artists such as Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, and Takashi Murakami. Additionally, Antonio has also moved into prefab architecture by collaborating with design giants like the Campana Brothers and the late Zaha Hadid.

Helen and Bernard Arnault at Louis Vuitton’s 150th Anniversary Party held at Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center, NYC, February 10, 2004. © Patrick McMullan. Photo: Jimi Celeste/PMc.

5. Hélène and Bernard Arnault (France)
Chairman and CEO of the French luxury-products conglomerate LVMH, Arnault has a net worth of $32.8 billion, making him the richest man in Europe, according to Bloomberg. In 2014, Arnault opened the Frank Gehry–designed Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, with commissioned works by the likes of Olafur Eliasson, Ellsworth Kelly, Sarah Morris, and Taryn Simon. His collection consists of many thousands of contemporary and modern artworks, including pieces by Agnes Martin, Pablo Picasso, and Yves Klein.

Bill and Maria Bell at Alex Israel’s studio. Photo courtesy Bill and Maria Bell.

6. Bill and Maria Bell (United States)
Early in their collecting career the Bells were drawn to Andy Warhol. Today, they have become best known as Jeff Koons’s biggest supporters—they bought the artist’s massive Play-Doh (1994–2014) sculpture and waited two decades for delivery. Much like when they started collecting in the 1990s, this power couple is well poised to take advantage of a softening market. In May they bought a $1.5 million Ed Ruscha painting at Christie’s postwar and contemporary art evening sale, substantially below it’s $2 million estimate.

Peter Benedek. Photo Alex J. Berliner/ABImages, courtesy United Talent Agency.

7. Peter Benedek (United States)
Benedek, co-founder of United Talent Agency (which now represents artists), and his then-wife Barbara, a screenwriter (The Big Chill), began collecting 25 years ago when Peter bought himself a David Hockney painting as a birthday present from the now-defunct Corcoran Gallery in Santa Monica. Since then, he has amassed a first-rate store of artworks that he compulsively updates every year. In an email to artnet News, Benedek recently acknowledged adding works by the following artists to their extensive collection: William KentridgeJonas WoodLesley VanceRicky SwallowMax JansonsTom Wesselmann, and Ella Kruglyanskaya. In his own words, his purchases over the last 12 months are “intergenerational and speak to many subjects.”

Lawrence Benenson, with artist Rachel Rose at the MoMA PS1 Benefit Gala 2015. © Patrick McMullan.
Photo: Paul Bruinooge/

8. Lawrence Benenson (United States) NEW!
The scion of a great New York real estate fortune, Benenson is an executive vice president at Benenson Capital Partners. His father was the storied art collector Charles Benenson; over a lifetime, he amassed an eccentric trove of artworks by figures such as Joan Miró and David Wojnarowicz. The tastes of Benenson fils also run to the eclectic: Lawrence collects historical documents (he owns a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln) as well as paintings and drawings by Henri Matisse, Kehinde Wiley, Gustave Doré, and Mark Lombardi. Additionally, Benenson serves on the board of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Ad Reinhardt Foundation.

Debra Black and Leon Black. Photo Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan.

9. Debra and Leon Black (United States)
Owner of Apollo Global Management, Phaidon Books, and Artspace Marketplace, Leon Black is reported to be worth $4.7 billion. His wife, Debra, is a Broadway producer. In 2012, Leon made waves when he purchased one of four existing versions of Edvard Munch’s The Scream for $120 million. Most recently, Leon was revealed to be Larry Gagosian’s secret buyer for Pablo Picasso’s contested plaster sculpture Bust of a Woman (1931), for which the New York dealer paid $106 million. In 2014, the Blacks also bought a 17,000-square-foot Manhattan mansion previously occupied by the defunct Knoedler & Company for $50.25 million. Considering all their pricey treasures, it makes a swell private gallery.

Christian Boros and Karen Boros at the Boros Collection. Photo John MacDougall/AFP/GettyImages.

10. Christian and Karen Boros (Germany)
Located in a former World War II air raid shelter and S&M club, Christian and Karen Boros’ concrete abode is also home to the Bunker, an 80-room exhibition space for contemporary art that includes more than 700 artworks by artists such as Danh Vo, Ai Weiwei, Elmgreen & DragsetSarah LucasRirkrit TiravanijaElizabeth Peyton, and Olafur Eliasson.

Norman Braman and Irma Braman. Photo Chris Ford/Patrick McMullan.

11. Irma and Norman Braman (United States)
Besides being instrumental in bringing Art Basel to Miami in 2002, the Bramans are among the handful of local figures who ensure that that city’s private collections are among the best in the world. Much of their blue-chip collection—which includes paintings by Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning, and Jasper Johns and the globe’s largest private holding of works by Alexander Calder—is on view at their spectacular Indian Creek Island residence. Since 2014, the Bramans have also been engaged in another large project: Funding the design and construction of South Florida’s newest museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, set to open its new Design District flagship in December 2016, just in time for Art Basel in Miami Beach.

Peter M. Brant at the Montblanc De La Culture Arts Patronage Award ceremony at Kappo Masa, November 10, 2015, in New York. Photo Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Montblanc.

12. Peter Brant (United States)
After initially shedding a number of his magazine properties in a 2015 merger, Brant’s Brant Publications has reassumed full ownership of Art in America and its sister publications, while adding ARTnews to its stable. The creator of the Brant Foundation in Greenwich, Connecticut, the media mogul has single-handedly bankrolled the global phenomenon that is “dude art.” Recent shows at the Brant Foundation have included displays by Dan ColenDash Snow, and Jonathan Horowitz. In May, the New York Post speculated that Brant was the buyer of Maurizio Cattelan’s controversial $17.2 Hitler sculpture at Christie’s May sale.

Eli Broad and Edythe Broad at Los Angeles’s the Broad in 2015. Courtesy photographer Jerod Harris/Getty Images.

13. Eli and Edythe Broad (United States)
A fixture of top collector lists for many a year, the Broads further solidified their influential position with the opening of the Broad, their new $140 millionDiller, Scofidio + Renfro-designed contemporary art museum in Los Angeles. The museum boasts Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room (2013), Jordan Wolfson‘s creepy robot, as well as another two thousand Instagram-ready artworks. The collection showcases the couple’s blue-chip tastes—Edythe started collecting some 50 years before her husband—as well as thematic shows, like the Broad’s upcoming Cindy Sherman survey. “We look for quality, and for things that we think are going to be huge and historically important,” Eli told Haute Living in March. “I’m interested in whether it has social commentary.”

German art collector Frieder Burda poses next to a Pablo Picasso sculpture in the exhibition “Masterpieces of the Museum Frieder Burda” at the Granet museum in Aix-en-Provence. Courtesy photographer Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images.

14. Frieder Burda (Germany)
Burda, who turned 80 this year, opened his eponymous Frieder Burda Museum in Baden-Baden in 2004. His collection has grown to include more than 1,000 works of mostly blue-chip art that include pieces by German Expressionists, Abstract Expressionists, and Teutonic contemporaries like Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter. In May, Burda made news for his deaccessioning of Mark Rothko’s No. 36 (Black Stripe) (1958) at Christie’s for $40.5 million. Yet Burda’s collection continues to grow. According to the German art magazine Monopol, the collector recently acquired Andreas Gursky’s photograph Rückblick (2015), which depicts Germany’s four living chancellors seated before Barnett Newman’s painting Vir Heroicus Sublimis (1950–51).

Richard Chang. Courtesy of photographer A. De Vos, © Patrick McMullan.

15. Richard Chang (United States)
Regularly touted as one of Asia’s top collectors, Chang founded the Domus Collection, which is based both in New York and Beijing. Since then, the investment professional has become a key broker between the art communities of both East and West. Chang is a trustee of the Royal Academy in London and MoMA PS1 and the president of New York’s Performa. Additionally, he is the vice chair of the Tate’s International Council. Chang collects work from artists at all stages of their careers. The Domus Collection told artnet News that he’s recently been focusing on established German artists Anselm Kiefer and Sigmar Polke, mid-career American abstract painters such as Laura Owens and Jacqueline Humphries, and emerging artists including Harold Ancart and Kevin Beasley.

Pierre T.M. Chen. Courtesy of the Yageo Foundation.

16. Pierre T.M. Chen (Taiwan)
Though he recently stepped down from being CEO of his electronics company, Chen has definitely not retired from collecting. In fact, the Taiwanese entrepreneur made his biggest purchase ever in at Christie’s in May, when he paid $26 million for the painting Swamped (1990) by Scottish painter Peter Doig. Other works in his Western-leaning collection include pieces by Georg Baselitz, Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter, Cy Twombly, Marc QuinnAndreas Gursky, and Mark Rothko. Reportedly, full-time staff help Chen buy his art. In 2014–15, some 75 works from his collection toured four Japanese museums in the exhibition “Guess What? Hardcore Contemporary Art’s Truly a World Treasure.”

Adrian Cheng. Courtesy photographer Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images.

17. Adrian Cheng (China)
Heir to a property-development fortune in Asia, the Hong Kong native is the founder of the K11 Art Foundation, which has staged exhibitions by artists like Olafur Eliasson, Damien Hirst, and Yoshitomo Nara at the foundation’s K11 Art Malls in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Cheng is on the board of directors of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, is a board member of the National Museum of China Foundation, a trustee of the Royal Academy, a member of Tate‘s International Council, and a member of the Centre Pompidou‘s International Circle. In March of this year, Cheng—who is among the world’s youngest billionaires—announced that he joined the board of directors of the Public Art Fund.

Patricia Phelps de Cisneros poses with the artwork Nylon Cube by Venezuelan artist Jesus Soto, part of the exhibition “Radical Geometry: Modern Art of South America from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection” at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, England. Courtesy of photographer Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images.

18. Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (Venezuela and Dominican Republic)
Founded in the 1970s by Cisneros and her husband, Gustavo, the New York City and Caracas-based Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (CPPC) is one of the world’s premiere collections of Latin American art. The collection ranges across ethnographic objects, colonial, modern, and contemporary art from the Americas. Additionally, Cisneros sits on the board of MoMA.

Steven Cohen. Courtesy photographer Billy Farrell, © Patrick McMullan.

19. Steve Cohen (United States)
The former hedge-fund manager has a history of using the art trade as a financial market—mainly by buying and selling high-priced artworks—but in January he went one further. He used his $1 billion store of art trophies to secure a personal loan from Morgan Stanley’s Private Bank. More recently, the billionaire—who bought Alberto Giacometti’s painted-bronze sculpture Chariot (1950) for $101 million at Sotheby’s in 2014—acquired 1.2 million Sotheby’s shares through his new company, Point72 Asset Management, making him the auction house’s fifth largest shareholder.

Rosa De la Cruz, Carlos De la Cruz at the American Federation of Arts Gala Cultural Leadership Awards, Metropolitan Club,
October 29, 2015. © Patrick McMullan. Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/PMC.

20. Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz (United States)
Open to the public since 2009 in a 30,000 square foot space, the de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space is a must stop on the growing tour of Miami’s private museums. Like other Miami power players, the couple pegs their yearlong exhibitions to the December opening of Art Basel Miami Beach. This year’s show, “You’ve Got to Know the Rules…to Break Them” was curated entirely from the de la Cruz’s collection. The exhibition includes works by artists Félix González-TorresArturo HerreraJim HodgesAlex IsraelAna Mendieta, and Rob Pruitt, among others.

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