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Behold the Poshest Private Art Museums in All of Their Glory !

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April 11, 2016
Studied Photography at IED in Milan, Italy. Passionate about art, frequent visitor of exhibitions, Widewalls photography specialist and Editor-in-Chief.

“Buy art, build a museum, put your name on it, let people in for free. That’s as close as you can get to immortality.” This is what Damien Hirst said back in 2007, and many billionaires couldn’t agree more. Because rich people buy art, but the super-rich? They make art museums of their own. Ever since the 16th century and the first Wunderkammern, it was a matter of prestige and power to show the world what you own, and even nowadays art stands as a sort of physical evidence of collected experiences. Today, private art museums could be described as fancy design buildings that house, and put on view, the vast, incredible art collections of the wealthy, and are usually single-funded by their owners. Because, well, they can be.

Let’s go back to January 2016 and the comprehensive report issued by Larry’s List in collaboration with Artron – as we speak, there are at least 400 of these venues in the world, and most of them were founded fairly recently – in the last fifteen years, which only confirms their rise and contribution to the global arts scene. It seems like a win-win situation – after all, for many of these gentlemen (81% of the founders are men, according to the aforementioned report), artworks represent long-term investments, and it’s no secret that art could always use more patrons. Add to that the tax benefit status that most countries offer to private art museums, and the story basically explains itself. Of course, wealthy collectors also have a genuine appreciation for art too, an obvious fact that comes to reveal itself once you’re in a room with their remarkable artworks. Finally, because as much as hundreds of millions of dollars get spent on art museums of the kind, it’s not just about the interiors, but also the visual aspect of the building itself, resulting in world’s top architects and designers being involved in making these facilities a real sight for sore eyes.

In this article, we take a look at some of the fanciest private art museums around the world and the extraordinary collections they host.

   Editors’ Tip: Art in the Frick Collection : Paintings, Sculpture, Decorative Arts

The Frick Collection is without a doubt one of the most important private art collections in the United States and the world, which includes a spectacular array of paintings, sculptures and numerous masterpieces of the decorative arts, among others. Art in the Frick Collection is its comprehensive illustrated survey, a must-have for anyone interested in the magical world housed in a Fifth Avenue mansion in New York City. It was founded by Henry Clay Frick, an industrialist whose interest in and knowledge of art led him to begin buying artworks in about 1880. His collection’s most prized works include Bellini’s “St Francis in the Desert”, Holbein the Younger’s portrait of Sir Thomas More, El Greco’s “Purification of the Temple”, three Vermeers, seascapes and landscapes by Turner, and works by Degas, Renoir, Monet and Whistler.

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Fondazione Prada

The Prada Collection of 20th and 21st century artworks, built by the fashion giant Miuccia Prada and her husband Patrizio Bertelli, are now on view at Fondazione Prada, Milan’s latest art museum. Even though it’s been present on the city’s art scene for a year only, the institution has already established itself as a force to be reckoned with, having already done the same with their branch in Venice. The venue includes some 11,000 square meters of exhibition space and 19,000 square meters of total space, which was designed by Rem Koolhaas. The glamorous opening of Fondazione Prada had Robert Gober and Thomas Demand realize site-specific installations while director Roman Polanski contributed to the glamorous opening with a new documentary and a series of film screenings.

Featured images: Fondazione Prada. Photo by Bas Princen; Serial Classic exhibition view. Photo by Attilio Maranzano.

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The Broad

For the eclectic Los Angeles art scene, The Broad Museum represents everything: an architectural wonder, an incredible art museum, a tourist attraction. Founded by Eli and Edythe Broad, who were already notoriously envied for their surreal art collection, the facility is home to nearly 2,000 pieces of contemporary art, made by 200 artists such as Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha. At Broad, one can also find Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room, as well as Julie Mehretu’s great 2013 canvas Beloved (Cairo). And the inaugural exhibition? More than 250 paintings, sculptures and photographs, just to make sure they’re a good track – and the amazing attendance within the first six months already proves they are.

Featured images: The Broad Museum. Photo by Spencer Lowell via Bloomberg; Upper floor exhibition space. Image via westerliespress.com.

K11 Art Mall

Now, think of an art museum in which you can also shop, because that’s exactly what K11 Art Mall is. Currently, there are two of them – in Shanghai and Hong Kong, but their owner, Chinese billionaire Adrian Cheng, plans on building seventeen more shopping malls that will also serve as exhibition spaces and art galleries by 2020. Their collection, which can also be browsed through online, contains works by Damien Hirst, Yoshitomo Nara, Zhan Wang, Choi Jeong Hwa, Deborah Butterfield, and a variety of established and emerging Chinese artists. Aiming to match New York City’s SoHo, K11 became a museum with retail stores, spread on several floor, whose first exhibition was opened in December 2009.

Featured images: K11 Art Mall. Image via k11.com; Damien Hirst artwork at K11. Image via illywords.com.

Vanhaerents Art Collection

The Vanhaerents Art Collection is situated in an old warehouse, converted to host a body of contemporary art from the 1970s until today, collected by the Belgian construction tycoon Walter Vanhaerents over the course of the past forty years. For him, the starting point was the work of Andy Warhol, and the artists he inspired, like Jenny Holzer and Allan McCollum, or the Japanese Pop art counterparts like Takashi Murakami and Chiho Aoshima. But that’s not all: in the Vanhaerents Art Collection, you can also see one John Baldessari, or Matthew Barney, or Ugo Rondinone, or Paul McCarthy. The space as such opened in 2007, and ever since then, it is an inevitable stop for all art enthusiasts visiting Brussels.

Featured images: Vanhaerents Art Collection. Image via archdaily.net; Walter Vanhaerents in his art exhibition space in Brussels. Photo by Saskia de Rothschild via International Herald Tribune.

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Garage Museum of Contemporary Art

Established in 2008 by Dasha Zhukova, The Garage Museum is the permanent home to her expanding collection of modern and contemporary art and an exhibition space for numerous exhibitions taking place throughout the year. In 2015, it got a new building, this one too designed by Rem Koolhaas, located in Moscow’s Gorky Park. As a rare institution of its kind in Russia, the museum also houses the country’s first archive of Russian contemporary art from the 1950s on, constantly developing through gifts and acquisitions from Moscow galleries and personal collections. Garage hosted debut solo exhibitions in Russia of many artists, including Yayoi Kusama and Rirkrit Tiravanija.

Featured images: Garage Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo by Yuri Palmin; Personal Choice exhibition view. Photo by Ilya Ivanov.

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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Bentonville, Arkansas has become somewhat of a cultural hub when it got a massive cultural facility in 2011. It was the year when Walmart heiress Alice Walton founded the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a 217,000 square feet venue designed by Moshe Safdie. Its permanent collection features American art from the Colonial era to present day, including works by artists like Chuck Close, Jasper Johns, Norman Rockwell, Jackson Pollock and Tom Wesselman. Since its foundation, Crystal Bridges has collaborated with many other art museums, including the National Gallery of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. With Musée du Louvre in Paris, High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Terra Foundation, it has an ongoing four-year collaboration project.

Featured images: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Image via gretemangroup.com; Exhibition space. Image via nabholz.com.

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Fondation Louis Vuitton

A marvellous glass creation of Frank Gehry, Fondation Louis Vuitton opened in 2014 right next to the Jardin d’Acclimatation in Paris, like a spectacular, glossy giant in the middle of blossoming trees. The 126,000 square foot, $143 million-worth facility was founded by Bernard Arnault, the Chairman of LVMH, and it houses his massive art collection, which had to be unveiled in three stages and that includes works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gilbert and George, and Jeff Koons, to name only a few. On the site, there are also commissioned works by Olafur Eliasson, Ellsworth Kelly, Taryn Simon and Janet Cardiff, among others. What’s also interesting is that the building will become city government’s property after 55 years.

Featured images: Fondation Louis Vuitton. Photo Thomas Depin; Taryn Simon – A Polite Fiction, 2014. Photo by Molly SJ Lowe via Bloomberg.

Long Museum

Among the countries leading the way with the number of art museums, there’s China, and Long Museum is one of the venues they can certainly be very proud of. Also known as the Dragon Art Museum, it was founded by Liu Yiqian, a Chinese businessman who became widely known for his 2015 purchase of Modigliani’s Nu Couché, turning it into the second-highest price for an artwork at auction. The Long Museum, spread on two location, opened in 2012, becoming the country’s largest private museum at the time, and it continues to host exhibitions dedicated to today’s leading contemporary artists. In its collection, there is Chinese traditional and Revolutionary art, as well as artworks ranging from installation to paintings and photography.

Featured images: Long Museum West Bund; Atelier Deshaus. Photos by Su Shengliang.

Pier 24

Dedicated exclusively to photography, San Francisco’s Pier 24 is home to the permanent collection of the Pilara Foundation, dedicated to collecting, preserving and exhibiting the medium’s finest. It located, as the name suggests, at Pier 24 right underneath the Bay Bridge, in a historical building between storage and exhibition space. Since its opening in 2010, Pier 24 has hosted seven remarkable photo shows, including complete portfolios by Diane Arbus, Larry Clark, Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand. This private museum is everything a photography lover could ever wish for because its collection includes almost every photographer the medium has ever produced, and what’s more: it is possible to see its examples for free.

Featured images: Pier 24. Image via pier24.org; Richard Avedon at Pier 24. Image via itsjustjustin.com.

Elgiz Museum

Back in 2001, when there were no non-profit institutions in Turkey dedicated to contemporary art, Dr. Can Elgiz founded The Elgiz Museum, with a mission to promote young Turkish artists on an international level. In 2005 in Istanbul, it became home to the Elgiz collection, filled with influential Turkish artists like Abdurrahman Öztoprak and Ömer Uluç, but also world-renowned artists such as Eric Fischl, Tracey Emin, Barbara Kruger, Julian Schnabel, Hiroshi Sugito, Nan Goldin, Robert Rauschenberg and many more. The museum’s 2000 square-meter exhibition space also includes the open Archive Room, where gallerists and collectors can go through submitted artist portfolios and discover new talents – something this institution is very dedicated to.

Featured images: Elgiz Museum. Image via likealocalguide.com; Exhibition space. Image via globalprivatemuseumnetwork.com.