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Top 200 Collectors

Back-and-white portrait of a middle-aged white

Anita and Poju Zabludowicz

London

Technology and real estate

Contemporary art

Overview

If it’s boring, if it’s old, or if anyone else is interested in it, it’s not for Anita and Poju Zabludowicz. They have built their reputation, and 3,000-piece art collection, on creating celebrity for young artists, many directly out of school, who were unknown—at least until the Zabludowiczes got to them.

By purchasing major works, commissioning pieces, providing residencies at their art compound on an island in Finland, and mounting solo exhibitions at their own museum in London, the Zabludowiczes don’t just collect art—they make names for artists. As Anita once told the Evening Standard, “The idea is that you want to collect an artist till the day you die. … You want not just to acquire them but to get to know them. They become part of my ‘art family.’ I watch them grow.”

The couple traces their first acquisition to Ben Nicholson’s Box & Cox (1947). “We originally thought we would make a modern British collection,” they told ARTnews. “Every acquisition is a learning curve but that was a steep one.”

In 2010, American artist Matthew Day Jackson arrived at the Zabludowiczes’ Finnish retreat, on the island of Sarvisalo, just over an hour outside Helsinki, wanting to create a bunker housing a bronze cast skeleton in a glass coffin. “He presented us the drawing, and that was it; we commissioned him to do it,” Anita told W magazine. The skeleton’s form was molded from trees and branches found on the island, and the head was cast from a model of the artist’s own.

Jackson’s bunker certainly wouldn’t be the last significant intervention their estate would see. To show Keith Tyson’s magnum opus Large Field Array in Finland, the Zabludowiczes enlisted designer Siren Arkkitehdit Oy to build a steel structure inlaid with with locally available fir planks to properly support the 300 sculptures that comprise the installation. 

The couple plans to soon open another space for their location at Sarvisalo and where in Finland in March 2020, when much of the world was brought to standstill by the coronavirus pandemic’s lockdown. “We used the time and space to think long term and make concrete a proposal that has been percolating for some time,” they said, referring to a large-scale commission by artist Oscar Tuazon that had been in the works for several years.

Periodically, the Zabludowiczes have been the subject of controversy. In 2014, a group of artists founded Boycott Divest Zabludowicz, seeking to raise awareness of Poju’s reported pro-Israel ties and his stake in a military aircraft services company. The group encourages artists not to sell their work to the couple. In 2021, after an Israeli court ruled in favor of Jewish settlers attempting to evict Palestinian families from their longtime homes in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem, the couple once again became the subject of debate in the art world. More than 20 artists “de-authored” works held by the Zabludowiczes, and an open letter distributed by BDZ was signed by hundreds in the art world. In response, the couple made a rare statement in which they said, “We know that violence and aggression are not the answer and mourn the innocent lives lost on both sides.”

Newswire