Who Owns World's Top Private Art Collections?

January 20, 2018

Contrary to popular belief, not all art masterworks are held in museums and public galleries. Many of these are being kept in private art collections where only a selected few are able to observe them.

This highly expensive and very exclusive hobby is mostly reserved for billionaires and five of the game's top players control assets of over $11 billion.

Although many of the world's leading collectors buy artworks out of pure joy that comes with owning them, it should be noted that assembling collections is a fantastic choice for investing funds - artworks are the most stable, reliable kind of investment out there and many are aware that purchasing artworks is a fantastic ticket to a steady financial stratosphere.

So, unless you have a billion dollars burning a hole in your Swiss bank account, chances are you won't soon start rivaling the world's top private collections - but that does not mean that you should not be acquainted with who's who in the world of elite art collectors.

With that goal in mind, we prepared eleven private art collections definitely worth knowing - some of which you can even see yourself.

  Editors’ Tip: The Art of Collecting: An Intimate Tour Inside Private Art Collections with Advice on Starting Your Own


Through intimate interviews with collectors, this book unveils the passion behind the pursuit of arts, with advice from experts, while demystifying the process of collecting.

Featured image: Bibo Private Room, via squarespace.com; L&E Private Collection, via leprivateartcollection.com; Hirt Lede, via nymag.com. All images used for illustrative purposes only.

Steve Cohen

Considered by many to be one of the most prestigious art collectors on the globe, Steve Cohen is a wealthy buyer who spent hundreds of millions dollars on his quest of creating an incredible collection.

He is the owner of several post-impressionist paintings (Gauguin's Bathers or Van Gogh's Young peasant woman), a few modern artworks (like Munch's Madonna) and of numerous contemporary art marvels (such as Willem de Kooning's Police Gazette and Woman III, one of Jackson Pollock's drip paintings and Damien Hirst's The Physical Impossibility Of Death In the Mind Of Someone Living).

Featured image: Steve and Alex Cohen, at home in front of Jasper Johns' Flag, via fortune.com.

Eli and Edythe Broad

Valued somewhere around $2.2 billion, Eli and Edythe Broad's collection is arguably the best private collection of contemporary art in the world.

With nearly 2000 works, most of which are available for the public to see in LA's The Broad Museum, Eli and Edythe Broad possess artworks made by the likes of Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, Joseph Beuys, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Edward Ruscha.

Featured image: Eli and Edythe Broad, via yardi.com.

Poju and Anita Zabludowicz

Since the 1990s, Poju and Anita Zabludowicz have been slowly accumulating their 500-artist / 5,000-piece collection of artworks.

They exhibit their private art collection at three different locations, primarily at 176, a gallery in North London. Besides organizing artist residency programs in Las Vegas, Poju and Anita Zabludowicz plan to open up a privately funded contemporary art museum somewhere down the line.

Featured image: Poju and Anita Zabludowicz, via telegraph.co.uk.

François Pinault

François Pinault possesses an extraordinary collection of almost 2,500 works belonging to modern and contemporary art spheres. This French billionaire has more than 30 years of art collecting under his belt.

Featuring works made by the likes of Mark Rothko, Lucio Fontana, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, Pinault's collection, valued at around $1.4 billion, is available for public viewing at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice.

Featured image: François Pinault (left) and Tadao Ando, 2016, © Fred Marigaux.

Lee Byung-chull

After Lee Byung-chull died in 1987, his marvelous private art collection was opened to the public for tours.

This leading Korean private art museum is full to brim with what the Korean government defines as national treasures. Lee Byung-chull's collection of Korean art is considered to be one of the largest private collections in the country.

Featured image: Chairman Lee Byung-chull Painting by Seunghwan Kim, via saatchiart.com

Adrian Cheng

Adrian Cheng, a Hong Kong businessman and the heir to the billionaire Cheng Yu-tung, was the one who founded the K11 Foundation, a non-profit foundation in China that incubates young contemporary artists and promotes public education.

Adrian Cheng assembles works and showcases artistic talents from China, facilitating cross-cultural dialogues within the global art scene.

Featured image: Adrian Cheng, Photo by David Atlan.

Charles Saatchi

His name requires no introduction - Charles Saatchi, a dealer and a collector, is one of the most important figures of the contemporary art scene. For the last two decades, Saatchi has worked with some of the most famous artists of our time, collecting artworks from them on a regular basis.

Saatchi's collection is full of art jewels made by the likes of Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Anselm Kiefer, Andy Warhol and Julian Schnabel. He is also a prime example of having private collections placed online.

Featured image: Charles Saatchi, via leroybrothers.com.

Bernard Arnault

Bernard Arnault is a noted art collector who is known far and wide for his contemporary collection that includes works made by Pablo Picasso, Gerhard Richter, Christian Boltanski, Pierre Huyghe, Yves Klein, Henry Moore and Andy Warhol.

Many of these artworks can be viewed at the Fondation Louis Vuitton which Arnault initially started constructing in 2006.

Featured image: Bernard Arnault, via Fondation Louis Vuitton, by Martin Argyroglo.

Philip Niarchos

When Niarchos Sr. died in 1996, the Greek shipping magnate left behind a personal fortune of around $5 billion and a collection of masterpieces rumored to include the world’s largest private stockpile of works by Van Gogh.

These possessions became the property of Philip Niarchos and now, over two decades after his father's passing, this collection is estimated to be worth around $2.2 billion.

Featured image: Manuela Papatakis and Philip Niarchos arriving by sea to the Cannes film fest, via googleusercontent.com/

David Geffen

At the end of the day, David Geffen's private collection of contemporary art is perhaps the only one that can be compared with Eli Broad's one.

Geffen is the proud owner of several masterpieces by the best artists of the second half of the 20th century. After he sold Jackson Pollock's Number 5 and Willem de Kooning's Woman III recently, his collection is now worth around $2.3 billion.

Featured image: David Geffen, via stocklandmartel.net.

Ezra and David Nahmad

The most valuable collection on the planet is joint-owned by two brothers, Ezra and David Nahmad.

Estimated to be worth over $3 billion, this astonishing assembly of artworks is a result of the brothers' simple strategy - buy a lot of artworks, hold it for a while and then sell it for a lot more than what they paid for it.

Besides owning older artworks like Etruscan sarcophagus pieces and Leonardo da Vinci’s oil paintings, Ezra and David Nahmad own numerous works made by artists like Amedeo Modigliani, Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh.

Featured image: Ezra and David Nahmad, via mcclatchydc.com.