Skip to main content

Top 200 Collectors

Black-and-white portrait of an older white Russian man with a beard
Courtesy Garage Museum

Roman Abramovich

London; Moscow; New York

Steel, mining, investments, technology, and professional soccer (Chelsea Football Club)

Contemporary art; Impressionism; Modern art; Postwar art


With an estimated net worth of some $8.6 billion in 2022, according to Forbes, Roman Abramovich has long been among the most deep-pocketed art collectors in the game, and he’s believed to have snapped up quite a few trophy artworks at auction over the years (though confirmation is always a bit tricky in this business). Among his reported acquisitions, in 2008, are Lucian Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995) for $33.6 million at Christie’s New York, and the following day, a 1976 Francis Bacon triptych for a cool $86.3 million at Sotheby’s New York, which at the time set a record for the most expensive work of postwar art sold at auction. His early forays into the art world include having sponsored two exhibitions of Russian photography at London’s Somerset House, one of photographs by Soviet photographer Max Penson, and the other, a group show titled “Quiet Resistance: Russian Pictorial Photography 1900s–1930s.” 

Abramovich made his wealth after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, when many of Russia’s industries underwent privatization. In 1995, with Boris Berezovsky, he acquired a controlling interest in the oil company Sibneft for a reported £50 million, which soon further increased his wealth. His assets are managed by Millhouse Capital, which sold the majority of Abramovich’s shares of Sibneft for $13 billion in 2005. Since 2015, he has been the largest shareholder of the London-based multinational steel and mining company Evraz. In 2003, he purchased the English Premiere League team Chelsea F.C. for £140 million.

In 2008, Abramovich, with his then wife, fellow Top 200 collector Dasha Zhukova, opened the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow as a way to invigorate the city’s art scene. As their status in the art world continued to skyrocket, the couple purchased, according to Bloomberg, a swath of approximately 40 works by Ilya Kabakov, valued between $30 million and $60 million, from John L. Stewart, a U.S. collector with strong holdings in Russian art. When Abramovich and Zhukova announced their separation in August 2017 after 10 years, many art-world observers said it could be Britain’s most expensive split ever. (The couple were listed together on the Top 200 from 2011 until 2016.)  In 2018, Abramovich was listed as an oligarch on the U.S. Treasury’s “Kremlin Report,” which compiled the names of individuals who hold significant roles in Russia’s economy.

In 2022, after Russia invaded Ukraine, Abramovich and other Russian oligarchs came under greater scrutiny. The U.K., the E.U., and Switzerland seized Abramovich’s assets, preventing him from doing business there and hindering his ability to buy art. In May 2022, after a three-month process, Abramovich sold Chelsea to an American investment group led by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly for a record price of $3.1 billion. Between 2021 and 2022, Abramovich’s net worth plunged billions of dollars.