The Top 25 Photo Collectors

The most active, committed—and obsessed.

Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla’s Main Street, Saratoga Springs, New York, 1931, by Walker Evans.


Who are the world’s top photography collectors? ARTnews surveyed prominent dealers, auction specialists, and museum curators to find out. The list represents a disparate lot—from connoisseurs who started in the 1970s, when the market for photography first emerged, to aficionados such as New York financier Thomas H. Lee and his wife, Ann Tenenbaum, who in recent years have joined the ranks from other areas of interest, particularly postwar and contemporary art.

“It’s a very different group from that of five years ago,” says San Francisco dealer Jeffrey Fraenkel of the 25 collectors, who were selected based on how active they are rather than the size or value of their collections. “No medium is isolated unto itself. For the last 160 years, photography has been inextricably bound with other arts—a fact that is becoming ever clearer.”

Some of those on the list take a broad, historical approach to their collecting. Others mine a specific interest. Los Angeles film producer Bruce Berman and his wife, Nancy, share a penchant for William Eggleston. New York physicist Michael Mattis and his wife, Judith Hochberg, are especially fond of Edward Weston. Henry Buhl, a retired New York investment banker and longtime collector, likes images of hands, while San Francisco real-estate investor Paul Sack says he favors photographs with buildings in them.

What distinguishes these top 25 is “their level of activity, the degree of their commitment, and the time and energy they spend,” says New York dealer Howard Greenberg. They “follow their hearts and can talk to you about their collections,” adds Anne Wilkes Tucker, curator of photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “They know what they have bought and why.” What ends up hanging in their homes often only hints at the depth of their passion. “You know you are truly obsessed,” Mattis notes, “when you buy something that is destined for your print cabinet—not your wall.”

Bruce and Nancy Berman
Los Angeles
20th century, particularly postwar American; contemporary

Claude Berri
19th and 20th century, particularly Surrealism

Henry Buhl
New York
Investment banking (retired); commercial photography
19th and 20th century; contemporary

Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein
San Francisco
20th century; contemporary

Robert Fisher
San Francisco
Apparel (The Gap)
20th century; contemporary

Danielle and David Ganek
Greenwich, Connecticut
Money management
20th century; contemporary

Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla
New York; Corpus Christi, Texas; Kingsland, Georgia
Inheritance; real-estate development
20th century; contemporary

Ydessa Hendeles
19th and 20th century; contemporary

Matthew R. Isenburg
Hadlyme, Connecticut
Auto dealer
19th century, particularly daguerreotypes

Elton John
Old Windsor and London, England; Atlanta
20th century; contemporary

Baroness Marion and Baron Philippe Lambert
19th and 20th century; contemporary

Saundra B. Lane
20th century; contemporary

Thomas H. Lee and Ann Tenenbaum
New York; East Hampton, New York; Palm Beach, Florida; Lincoln, Massachusetts
20th century; contemporary

Bruce Lundberg
New Haven, Connecticut
19th-century Italian; American daguerreotypes

Martin Z. Margulies
Key Biscayne, Florida
Real-estate development
20th century; contemporary

Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg
Westchester County, New York
19th and 20th century

Richard and Ronay Menschel
New York
Investment banking
19th and 20th century

John and Lisa Pritzker
San Francisco
Hotel and service industry (Hyatt; Ticketmaster)
20th century; contemporary

Paul Sack
San Francisco
Real-estate investor
19th and 20th century

Gary B. Sokol
San Francisco
Investment management
19th-century European; 20th century

Howard Stein
New York; Santa Barbara
Investment banking
19th and 20th century; contemporary

Sheikh Saud Al Thani
Doha, Qatar; London
Particularly 19th century; 20th century; contemporary

Thomas Walther
Inheritance (machine-tool manufacturing)
Particularly 19th century; 20th century; contemporary

Michael and Jane Wilson
London; Los Angeles
19th and 20th century

Gary and Sarah Wolkowitz
New York
Apparel (Hot Sox)
19th and 20th century; contemporary

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