Debra and Leon Black had a big year in 2012. That May it was revealed that they had been the winning bidders for Edvard Munch’s 1895 pastel drawing The Scream, sold at Sotheby’s May 2 sale in New York for $119.9 million—at the time the most money ever spent on a work at auction. It was also in 2012 that Leon, a businessman specializing in private equity, bought the art-book publisher Phaidon and, together with his wife, a Broadway producer, donated $48 million to Dartmouth College for a new visual arts center. (The donation came with the gift of a site-specific Ellsworth Kelly work.) Another major acquisition for the Blacks came in 2016, when Leon was declared the legal victor in a dispute and declared the rightful owner of Picasso’s celebrated 1931 plaster sculpture, Bust of a Woman (Marie-Thérèse). (In May 2015, Gagosian Gallery had purchased the sculpture, a star of the 2015 “Picasso Sculpture” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, for about $106 million from Picasso’s daughter Maya Widmaier-Picasso, and subsequently sold it to Leon. What followed was a protracted legal battle between the gallery and the Qatari royal family.) Leon serves on the boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Asia Society, and was named chairman of the board of the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2018. He is reportedly currently looking to buy Tronc, the publishing company that owns the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News.

© 2019 ARTnews Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved. ARTnews® is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Debra and Leon Black

New York

Source of wealth:
Investment banking

Collecting area:
Old Masters; Impressionism; modern painting; Chinese sculpture; contemporary art; works on paper

Top 200 appearance:
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fun fact:

In 2014, under the guidance of Leon, Phaidon bought the online art-auction site Artspace for an undisclosed price.