Features The Top 200 Collectors

The 2004 Top Ten Collectors

For more information on these collectors, plus the rest of the list, please click the image to see the Top 200

A top collector should have three things, says a knowledgeable observer of the things top collectors should have:
1. Deep pockets.
2. Big closets.
3. No memory.
Deep pockets? Big closets? That’s easy. How come no memory?

“Say, for example, that you didn’t buy a painting by a young artist the first time around,” states the knowledgeable observer. He adds, “But you persevere to get that piece or a similar piece even though it costs more. You have to lose your memory of what it would have cost earlier.”

The expert is among the dealers, auctioneers, museum directors, curators, and consultants interviewed by ARTnews correspondents in 22 countries for the 14th annual ARTnews200 (and its Top Ten), our list of the world’s most active collectors.

When do you become a serious collector who might make the Top Ten, and how long do you remain one?

“It kicks in at about the age of 45,” says one Top Ten source, who is much older than 45. “Of course, you’ve got to be extremely wealthy. Usually, you’re not willing to spend lots of money on art unless you reach that age and you have the confidence to do it. It lasts for about eight to ten years.”


“The value of the collection has gone up enormously. You’re grateful you’ve got it. You might not want to pay to buy similar work again at the new price.”

But another Top Ten source said, via cell phone from a European airport, that the passion to acquire art “lasts much longer than eight to ten years or up to the age of 55. It can easily go to 70.”

Meanwhile, there is no disagreement over the fact that there are more people with greater financial resources buying expensive art than perhaps ever before.

It should also be noted that there is no unanimity as to when the serious collecting urge “kicks in.” One of the newcomers to the Top Ten, Kenneth C. Griffin, founder and president of Citadel Investment Group of Chicago—who started collecting Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art a few years ago—is 35. And Eli Broad, who made his fortune in financial services and housing development, and who has never missed making the Top Ten list, is 71.

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