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Top 200 Collectors

Kenneth C. Griffin

Kenneth C. Griffin

Chicago

Hedge fund

Contemporary art; Post-Impressionism

Overview

In 2019, the hedge fund billionaire, Kenneth C. Griffin, founder of the Chicago-based investment firm Citadel, 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.

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 1999, 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 (1959) 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 expansion of the Art Institute of Chicago. Designed by Renzo Piano, the new structure features Cézannes on loan from Griffin’s private collection.

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.

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