Ellen and Michael Ringier
Michael Ringier, a Swiss publishing magnate, has been collecting art for more than 30 years. He started with Russian Constructivism and went on to amass one of the most important collections of contemporary art in the world, with around 2,000 works in his holdings. (Curator Beatrix Ruf, formerly of the Stedelijk Museum, provided an assist as he was assembling his collection.) Ringier and his wife, Ellen, keep art in their villa in Zurich, but Michael has also incorporated his collection into his role as chief of the Ringier publishing empire—his family has long owned a printing business in Switzerland—which puts out such publications as the magazine Monopol and runs the art-publishing subsidiary JRP Ringier.
Michael has displayed some 200 works from his collection in the JRP Ringier’s headquarters in Zurich, and since 1997, artists have been brought on to design his company’s annual report. One from 2014 was done by Wade Guyton; another, in 2011, was put together by Maurizio Cattelan, who presented it in the form of a roll of toilet paper. Working with fellow ARTnews Top 200 collector Maja Hofmann, Ringier cofounded a program called Pool that mentors emerging curators and allows them to borrow works from collections that are part of the initiative.
In 2017 Ringier’s name became tied to an art-world controversy, after Ruf abruptly resigned as artistic director of the Stedelijk amid suspicion over what was on view at the museum and its possible connections to her advising company, Current matters. An investigation found that, in 2015, Currentmatters reported a profit of about $500,000 to the Dutch tax authorities. In a statement given to the New York Times, Ruf said: “In fact, this profit statement reflects legitimate income from activities conducted before 2015, primarily a parting bonus for past work from the Ringier Collection in the amount of 1 million Swiss Francs.” Ringier later confirmed that he had given Ruf the “thank you gift” of 1 million francs, because Ruf added value “in the tens of millions or even hundreds of millions” to his collection.