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Top 200 Collectors

Charles Schwab

Helen and Charles Schwab

Woodside, California

U.S. investment firm

Contemporary art; Modern art


Helen and Charles Schwab of the fabled financial Charles Schwab Corporation have spent many years building a modern and contemporary art collection that includes works by Jackson Pollock and Francis Bacon, among many others. They have also supported the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, on whose board Helen has served as vice chair and Charles as chairman, and they have promised to donate several significant works to the museum, including Pollock’s Square Pouring and Black and White (number 6), Bacon’s Figure with Two Owls, and David Smith’s Voltri XII.

And SFMOMA owes other parts of its vastly expanded collection of modern art to the Schwabs—after, in 2009, Donald Fisher, the terminally ill founder of the Gap clothing chain, sought a home for his highly coveted blue-chip collection including works by Andy Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, and Richard Serra. Loathe to see the treasures leave San Francisco, Charles pursued a deal with his friend that would leave the works entrusted to the museum, with the two making a handshake agreement mere months before Fischer’s death. “Don trusted Chuck,” SFMOMA director Neal Benezra told Forbes. “I’m quite certain that Don’s knowing that Chuck was committed to the Fisher collection and the growth of the museum allowed him to have confidence at the end of his life that his collection would be in great hands at SFMOMA.” It was a poetic end to the collectors’ joint mission, as the two began acquiring works for the museum months after its opening in 1995. “Our shared quest for contemporary art was an important part of the relationship,” Schwab said.