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Meet the world’s top art collectors


Francis Bacon’s Triptych (1976). Sold at Sotheby’s in 2008 for $86.3 million. The owner Roman Abramovich

Roman Abramovich: The best-known figure of the Russian oligarchy, Roman Abramovich became a public figure in the West due to his acquisition of Chelsea football club. From orphan beginnings in Lithuania, he rose in astonishing fashion and, by the age of 30, part-owned a controlling stake in the oil firm Sibneft (Gazprom Neft).

Abramovich buys Russian art, including the works of the conceptual artist Ilya Kabakov, but also follows the trend for paintings by Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and other blue chip names.

Francois Pinault: A French billionaire and founder of The Kering Group (formerly PPR) . He is the owner of Christie’s auction house, Pinault controls the world’s largest art business, and as such has an intimate inside knowledge of the art market. He has built up one of the world’s largest and most valuable new collections of art, and has bought a number of works by the next man on our list, artist Damien Hirst.


Bernard Arnault: Pinault’s great rival in business, Bernard Arnault, France’s richest man and chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH luxury goods company is also a prolific collector of modern art.

In 1999, he bought Phillips de Pury auction house, in direct competition to Pinault’s Christie’s.

That the two chief proprietors of luxury goods of the last 50 years have taken such an interest and stake in the art market shows how important art has become as a symbol of luxury and wealth.
Damien Hirst: As the leading gure of the YBA’s, and one of the best known living artists, Damien Hirst is a divisive gure. For some he is a symbol of the preoccupation in contemporary art to look to shock and awe rather than educate and beautify.

In 2005 he purchased the enormous Gothic Revival country pile Toddington Manor, and painstakingly restored it to house and showcase his art collection. The collection has a British focus, but also includes works by Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons. Like in so much of his work, the underlying theme of the collection is death.

Microsoft: The company proclaims their collection has “5,000 works of art and is displayed in more than 180 buildings. The collection emphasises contemporary art from around the world, displayed for the benefit and enjoyment of Microsoft employees, their guests, and Microsoft customers”. Microsoft only spends a sliver of their $86 billion yearly turnover on their collection, but even a sliver of such a large pie is a serious outlay, particularly for a public company that has to answer to its shareholders.

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