Who Owns Some of the Most Valuable Art Collections in the World?

Masterworks
January 23, 2023

There is no feeling quite like wandering the echoing halls of an art museum.

Traipsing across polished floors, the high vaulted ceilings towering overhead, beholding displays of monumental historic and modern successes adorning the walls and pedestals—it’s a spectacular experience. Works featured in galleries are commonly donated or loaned by art collectors from their private collections, which are often priced at billions of dollars.

With this in mind, Masterworks compiled a list of some of the most valuable privately owned art collections in the world, using information from websites like Forbes and the New York Times. Supplemental data was pulled from Forbes’ billionaire list. Because these collections are private, any associated values are estimates, and this list is not necessarily exhaustive due to the general secrecy surrounding private art collections.

In 2021, the global art market reached a revenue of $65.1 billion dollars in sales, an increase of 30% since the prior year when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

In 2001, billionaire Daniel Wildenstein’s death shocked the art world when the art dealer’s collection was liquidated in the wake of an inheritance battle. The collection’s price exceeded everyone’s expectations with a valuation in the ballpark of $10 billion, a sum far greater than anyone listed below. Such famous names as Renoir, Cèzanne, and Van Gogh were included in the collection, which had been in the family for four generations. For many pieces made by the world’s most famous and renowned artists, their value and locations are shrouded in secrecy. As such, we can only speculate on the true values of private collections, and all values listed below are estimates.

Steve Cohen

Jim McIsaac // Getty Images

  • Age: 66
  • Nationality: United States
  • Net worth: $17.5 billion
  • Estimated art collection value: $1 billion

Steve Cohen and his wife, Alexandra Cohen, have been collecting art since 2000, amassing an impressive array of works. Fans and followers of the finance and baseball worlds will be familiar with the name Steve Cohen. He founded Point72 Asset Management, a hedge fund firm worth $26 billion and bought the New York Mets for $2.4 billion in 2020.

Having spent an estimated $1 billion on fine art, many famous names have appeared in the Cohens’ collection, including Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, and Jackson Pollock. Steve has stated that his acquisition of art comes from the gut. A notable piece in the collection is perhaps Damien Hirst’s most iconic work, “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a terrifying piece that displays a 13-foot tiger shark suspended in formaldehyde, forcing the viewer to confront their fear of death with something dead, the shark’s mouth agape as if to swallow us whole.

Cohen has been known to part with some of his pieces, having notably sold a Warhol “Mao” painting in 2015. The Cohens have donated to museums, including the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art, El Museo del Barrio, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2017, they donated $50 million to expand the Museum of Modern Art.

Francois Pinault

Chesnot // Getty Images
  • Age: 86
  • Nationality: France
  • Net worth: $36.7 billion
  • Estimated art collection value: $1.2 billion

François Pinault has amassed over 10,000 works in the last 50 years. With a deep passion for sharing his love of art, Pinault is one of, if not the most, important collectors of contemporary art. Pinault’s efforts to connect with creatives and advance public knowledge of art history have made him one of the most influential names in the art world.

In addition to regularly loaning artworks to museums, Pinault has pioneered such artist programs as a residency in Lens and the Prix Pierre Daix, an annual prize in memory of Pierre Daix, an art historian and friend of Pinault.

Unlike many art collections or pieces that are kept in the dark, the Pinault collection can be enjoyed in its new and beautiful home at the Bourse de Commerce, a stunning relic of architecture that has gone through significant repairs and metamorphoses, thanks to visionary architect Tadao Ando’s work on the building from 2017 to its completion in 2020.

Philip Niarchos

Rindoff Petroff/Castel // Getty Images
  • Age: 68
  • Nationality: Greece
  • Net worth: $2.8 billion
  • Estimated art collection value: At least $2 billion

Philip Niarchos inherited his art collection and fortune from his father, Stavros Niarchos, a Greek magnate who made his fortune in oil shipments in the early 1950s. In 1957, the elder Stavros acquired actor Edward G. Robinson’s collection, valued at over $2.5 billion. As the eldest son, Philip Stavros inherited most of his father’s collection. His additions to the collection have only increased its value, making it one of the most coveted in the world.

Notable works include the unmistakable “Yo, Picasso” and Van Gogh’s earless self-portrait, as well as works by Maurizio Cattelan and Andy Warhol. In 1985, Warhol exhibited a commission by his friend Philip entitled “Philip’s Skull,” which utilized CAT scans of Niarcho’s skull on silk screens, challenging the idea of self-portraiture. Equally as impressive is Niarchos’ purchase of Jean Michael Basquiat’s self-portrait for $3.3 million, a record-breaking sale for a Basquiat piece at the time. Niarchos’ collection is also said to have the most expansive private collection of Van Gogh paintings.

Edythe Broad

Carlo Allegri/Getty Images for LAPA
  • Age: 86
  • Nationality: United States
  • Net worth: $6.9 billion
  • Estimated art collection value: More than $2 billion

A philanthropist and esteemed art collector, Edythe Broad has committed her life to climate change efforts and has donated billions of dollars to science, education, and the arts. She and her husband, the late billionaire Eli Broad, were some of the first to sign the Giving Pledge, dedicating 75% of their accumulated wealth during their lifetimes.

The Broads’ collection is a commitment to art produced during their lifetime and has accumulated an estimated 2,000 works by 200 artists over the last 50 years. Along with efforts to highlight new and emerging artists, pieces by familiar names such as Takashi Murakami, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, and Yayoi Kusama have made their way into the collection.

In 2015, the couple opened The Broad, a contemporary art museum in downtown Los Angeles, to publicly showcase the fantastic array of work they collected over the years.

David Geffen

Imeh Akpanudosen // Getty Images

  • Age: 79
  • Nationality: United States
  • Net worth: $7.7 billion
  • Estimated art collection value: More than $2 billion

After his early days in the mailroom of the talent agency William Morris, David Geffen became an agent, eventually founding Geffen Records, Asylum Records, DGC Records, and DreamWorks Studios. Interestingly enough, some trickery was afoot when he secured the agent position. When Geffen worked in the mail room, he was able to intercept a letter from UCLA stating he had not completed his required schooling and fudged the letter to make it appear that he had graduated.

Geffen is particular about which works make it into his impressive art collection—and he certainly prioritizes quality over quantity, as his collection is much smaller in scale than others investing in the same space. He has been praised by art dealers and curators alike for his exemplary taste and timing in buying and selling coveted pieces. Much of his collection is shrouded in secrecy, with rare details released to the public.

The self-made billionaire is the most successful single owner of an art collection, making it invaluable despite the collection supposedly containing less than 50 items.

Ezra and David Nahmad

VALERY HACHE // Getty Images
  • Age: 77 (Ezra) and 75 (David)
  • Nationality: Monaco
  • Net worth:$1.5 billion (Ezra) and $2 billion (David)
  • Estimated art collection value: Between $3 billion and $4 billion

Brothers Ezra and David Nahmad are considered megadealers in the art world and have spent nearly a lifetime collecting historically significant pieces. Not strangers to controversy, the Nahmads have built their fortune with experience garnered in their teenage years, learning to deal in the art trade while growing up in Italy.

Their buy-and-hold strategy has helped them greatly increase profits, largely thanks to their expansive 15,000-square-foot warehouse in Geneva. It is estimated that the building contains somewhere between 4,500 to 5,000 pieces. Behind the Picasso family, the Nahmads are the owners of the second-largest Picasso collection, reportedly owning 300 original works valued at around $900 million. Other notable artists in their collection include Henri Matisse, Mark Rothko, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.


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