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Top 200 Collectors

Laura and John Arnold

Laura and John Arnold

Houston

Hedge fund

African art; Modern art; Old Masters

Overview

At just 38, John Arnold was ready for retirement. That year, 2012, in a move that shocked the finance industry, he closed his hedge fund, Centaurus Advisors, to focus on philanthropy with his wife, Laura, a former lawyer. Four years earlier, in 2008, the couple had started the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which funds initiatives in criminal-justice reform, K-12 education, public accountability, health care, information transparency, and more.

In 2010, when they signed on to the Giving Pledge, an initiative cofounded by billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, the Arnolds said in a joint statement, “we will devote the majority of our wealth, time and resources to philanthropy in the coming years, and we fully intend to achieve transformative results during our lifetime. There is no more worthwhile work and no greater mission. And there is no reason for delay in making a difference.”

In 2019, Barron’s reported that the Arnolds were converting their nonprofit foundation into an LLC, called Arnold Ventures, allowing them to expand into lobbying in addition to awarding grants. Since its launch, the firm has conferred more than $1 billion toward charitable causes.

While the Arnolds like to keep hush about their personal art collecting, they focus on modern and postwar, and Larry’s List notes that they collect deep in Abstract Expressionism and Cubism, with holdings of work by Willem de Kooning and Pablo Picasso, in particular. Most publicly, the Houston art adviser Robert McClain acquired a prime 1966 Gerhard Richter figurative work for the couple at Sotheby’s New York for $13.2 million in 2010, according to the New York Times.

Another favorite category is work by Old Masters. When asked about what hung on the walls of his office in a 2018 interview with the Houston Chronicle, John Arnold replied, “a Baroque painting by Cecco del Caravaggio of the Penitent [Mary] Magdalene, another Baroque piece by a Flemish artist of a troubled man trying to get cured by the bishop, and then a couple of African sculptures.” In the building’s lobby were a large sculpture made from countless steel dressmaker pins by Tara Donovan and a “pensive self-portrait” tapestry by Chuck Close.

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