The French investment banker Edouard Carmignac, who stepped away from the day-to-day fund management of his namesake firm in January 2019, has been a major player in the contemporary art game for the past 20 years when he founded the Fondation Carmignac in 2000 to acquire contemporary art and support artists through prizes and grants, including an annual award for photojournalism established in 2009.
But Carmignac’s connection to the art world goes back even further to his late 30s. In 1984, Carmignac visited New York and spent time at Andy Warhol’s Factory. It was there that he met one of the day’s most celebrated artists, Jean-Michel Basquiat. The artist would paint Carmignac’s portrait during that time. According to the foundation’s website, a small C in a circle at the bottom of the work’s composition would inspire the corporate logo for his company, which he would found five years later in 1989.
The foundation’s holdings, which are on view at his company’s offices, are rich in American and German postwar art, among them Warhol, Basquiat, and Gerhard Richter, whose work Carmignac first acquired in 1993 with the purchase of the 1982 abstraction, Grüner Strich. “Having artworks in-house creates the most ideal work conditions possible for each and every one of our workers,” Carmignac has said, adding how moved he is when his colleagues appreciate the art.
In a 2018 interview with the Art Newspaper he describes his collecting as a “compulsion” driven by “the energy and the emotional charge” of work. His first acquisition was a lithograph by Max Ernst, depicting a scene from Alice in Wonderland. Soon after came works by Warhol, Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, and Keith Haring.
Today the foundation has four rules that guide adding works to the collection, which now numbers around 300: “Buy what we love,” “No taboos,” “Without borders,” and “No reselling.” Other artists represented in the collection are John Baldessari, Alexander Calder, Maurizio Cattelan, Urs Fischer, Douglas Gordon, Keith Haring, Zhang Huan, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Shirin Neshat, and Ed Ruscha.
In 2018, Carmignac’s foundation opened a space on the Mediterranean island of Porquerolles, off the coast of the Côte d’Azur. Carmignac is also a formidable polo player, and in 2011 his team won the prestigious Queen’s Cup.