David Thomson, the richest person in Canada, inherited his abiding love for art collecting (and his multi-billion-dollar fortune) from his father, Ken. While Ken Thomson focused his eye on European art from the Italian Renaissance, ship models, and early 20th-century Canadian painters, his son’s 2,000-piece collection is far more diverse, ranging from postwar British artists like Alan Davie, Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, Roger Hilton, and William Scott to photography, Inuit art, and medieval sculpture. His holdings of John Constable have been cited as the world’s best. Thomson doesn’t necessarily keep all his art, however. Selling certain works, he once told Artlyst, is all a part of a collection’s evolution. “A collection,” he said, “needs to evolve and seek further dimension through both release and acquisition.”
Thomson family’s media and publishing empire has been valued at $37 billion. According to Forbes, the family holds more than 350 shares of the global company Thomson Reuters, where Thomson serves as chairman. The Thomson family also holds a considerable stake in the Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper. In April 2020, Forbes again named Thomson the richest Canadian—by a long shot. With a net worth valued at $31.6 billion (making him the #24 richest person in the world that year), his fortune is three times as large as the Joseph Tsai, the Alibaba cofounder who came in #2 on the list.
Thomson is also continuing his father’s long commitment of patronage to the Art Museum of Toronto. Ken famously donated Peter Paul Rubens’ The Massacre of the Innocents, a 17th-century painting for which he had paid a stunning $117 million, outbidding New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. David Thomson has donated upwards of $276 million to assist in the Toronto museum’s renovation costs, in addition to creating a permanent endowment with another $20 million donation.