Skip to main content

Top 200 Collectors

David Geffen

David Geffen

Los Angeles

Film and record executive; investments

Contemporary art; Modern art; Postwar art, especially Abstract Expressionism


It’s well known that entertainment tycoon David Geffen’s art collection includes works by artists such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. According to Paul Schimmel, who was the longtime chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles from 1990 until 2012, “There’s no collection that has a better representation of post-war American art than David Geffen’s.” 

It’s also common knowledge the tycoon—whose net worth was last estimated by Forbes to be $8.5 billion as of December 2019—loves making big deals on major artworks. In 2016 he sold a de Kooning and a Pollock he owned to fellow Top 200 collector Kenneth C. Griffin for half a billion dollars, and back in 2006 he unloaded two Johns and a de Kooning for $80 million and $63.5 million, respectively. Only a month later, The New York Times reported that Geffen sold Jackon Pollock’s painting No. 5, 1948 (1948) for $140 million to Mexican financier David Martinez, also a Top 200 collector. At the time,  No. 5, 1948 broke records as the most expensive painting ever sold, overtaking the previous record holder, Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, purchased for $134 million earlier that year by cosmetics heir and fellow Top 200 collector Ronald Lauder. 

Geffen also loves cutting big checks to arts institutions as well, donating $100 million to Lincoln Center in 2015 and another $100 million to the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2016. In 2017 he pledged $150 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which remains the largest gift in the museum’s history. “These are the kind of gifts you only dream about,” Glenn D. Lowry, MoMA’s director, told the New York Times at the time of the MoMA gift.