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Top 200 Collectors

Black-and-white portrait of an older white
Kenneth C. Griffin at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, File

Kenneth C. Griffin

Miami

Hedge fund

Contemporary art; Post-Impressionism

Overview

Best known as the founder of the investment firm Citadel, hedge fund billionaire and philanthropist Kenneth C. Griffin first got his start in the world of high finance as an undergraduate at Harvard, where he installed a satellite dish on the roof of his dorm to trade stocks in real-time and launched his first firm while still an undergraduate. 

Griffin once dropped $238 million on a four-floor penthouse in Manhattan, a property the Wall Street Journal deemed “America’s most expensive house.” The enormous sum paid for that piece of real estate is but one example of the kind of big transactions Griffin is known to undertake. He often drops quite a bit of cash on major artworks, too: In 2020, he spent $100 million on Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 painting Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump, which he then quickly displayed at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he is a longtime trustee.

Of his long-term dedication to supporting the arts, Griffin has said, “The arts are the soul of our city. I believe that each of us in experiencing the arts has an opportunity for personal growth.”

In Griffin’s collection are a prized Willem de Kooning painting (which he bought privately for $300 million from David Geffen), as well as works by Jackson Pollock, Paul Cézanne, Jasper Johns, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, and many more. He remains one of the most active art buyers globally. In 2004, he reportedly paid a record price of $60 million for Paul Cézanne’s painting Curtain, Jug and Fruit Bowl (ca. 1893).

In 2006, he bought Jasper Johns’s famous 1959 painting False Start from David Geffen for a reported $80 million. (The painting had already become famous in art-market history, when S. I. Newhouse, with dealer Larry Gagosian bidding on his behalf, purchased it at Sotheby’s in 1988 for a then-record price of $17 million.) That same year, Griffin underwrote a $19 million Renzo Piano–designed expansion of the Art Institute of Chicago for its modern wing. Hanging elsewhere in the museum is a Cézanne on loan from Griffin’s private collection.

In 2021, Griffin made headlines when he spent $43.2 million on a rare copy of the U.S. Constitution, outbidding ConstitutionDAO, a coalition of some 17,000 people, who had collectively promised more than $40 million to purchase it. “The U.S. Constitution is a sacred document that enshrines the rights of every American and all those who aspire to be,” said Griffin, who said he would loan the document to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. 

In 2015, he donated $40 million to the Museum of Modern Art and $10 million to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. In 2018, Griffin donated $16 million to the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida. In 2019, Griffin gave $25 million to the Shed, a performing arts center and art space in New York. That same year, he also gave a whopping $125 million to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, which announced that it would change its name following the donation.

And in 2021, he donated $10 million to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., that would allow the institution to create an exhibition titled “Exploring the Planets”; the gallery hosting this exhibition will also be named in his honor. In 2022, he donated $40 million to New York’s American Museum of Natural History for its forthcoming Center for Science, Education and Innovation, set to open in winter 2022–23; the museum will name the center’s four-story atrium space in Griffin’s honor.

A longtime resident of Chicago, Griffin made headlines again when he announced in June 2022 that he would move Citadel’s headquarters—and his primary residence—from the Windy City to Miami.

Newswire