Hans Rasmus Astrup
Shipping- and finance-related activities
Billionaire entrepreneur Hans Rasmus Astrup can trace his family’s roots in Norway back some 600 years, and the founding of the substantial shipping and real-estate empire to which he is heir back 1869. Astrup has successfully grown that inheritance into a personal fortune since assuming full ownership of the Astrup Fearnley companies in 1972.
Astrup is a deep collector of avant-garde Norwegian and international art, with some 1,500 objects in his holdings. He began amassing his collection in the 1960s, picking up over the years an eclectic mix of work by some of the world’s most prominent artists, including Cindy Sherman, Matthew Barney, Francis Bacon, Mark Bradford, Cai Guo-Qiang, Damien Hirst, Fischli & Weiss, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, David Hockney, Christopher Wool, Franz West, Ryan Trecartin, Glenn Ligon, Wolfgang Tillmans, Bruce Nauman, Shirin Neshat, Rachel Harrison, Martin Kippenberger, Huang Yong Ping, and many others. But perhaps the collections most well-known work is Jeff Koons’s 1988 white-and-gold porcelain sculpture of Michael Jackson and his pet chimp Bubbles. Astrup also owns one of Koons’s “Equilibrium” works, Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Dr. J. Silver Series), of three basketballs suspended in specially calibrated water.
Recently the collection has placed special emphasis on expanding its buying to include work by contemporary Scandanavian artists, including the duo Elmgreen & Dragset, Torbjørn Rødland, Bjarne Melgaard, Tori Wrånes, Vibeke Tandberg, and Ida Ekblad. His private museum, Astrup Fearnley Museet, first opened in Oslo in 1993, and in 2012 moved to a Renzo Piano–designed building in the city’s Tjuvholmen neighborhood on former docklands that jut out into the Oslofjord. That new complex, cost a reported 650 million Norwegian-Kroner (around $113 million at the time) to construct, and boasts some 43,000 square feet of gallery space, more than tripling its previous imprint. The museum’s director at the time, Gunnar B. Kvaran, told the Wall Street Journal, “We trusted that this would be the architectural masterpiece of Oslo.”
In 2020, the Astrup Fearnley Museet sold a Francis Bacon triptych with Sotheby’s for $84.6 million, exceeding its $60 million estimate.