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Est. 1902

Top 200 Collectors

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Helen and Sam Zell

Helen and Sam Zell



Modern and contemporary art, particularly Surrealism


Helen and Sam Zell

Iconoclastic business maestro Sam Zell was born to parents who escaped Poland in the early years of World War II and, in just a generation’s time, built an empire that Forbes has estimated to be worth $5 billion. He has been outspoken on a number of wide-ranging topics—in 2017 he published a memoir titled Am I Being Too Subtle?: Straight Talk from a Business Rebel—and with his wife, Helen, has accumulated an art collection to rank among the world’s best. In a video profile for the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art, Helen identified herself as the couple’s primary eye. “ ‘You do all the homework—you do the research—and I’ll pay for it,’ ” she recalls her husband saying over a meal at the start of their collecting years. (Sam’s response to the recollection? “Turned out to be a very, very expensive dinner.”)