When Henry Clay Frick bought Velázquez’s Portrait of Philip IV in 1911 for $475,000, he learned that the king had paid Velázquez about $600 for the painting. Frick calculated the compound interest at six percent on $600 from 1644 to 1911 and concluded that the price the king had paid for the portrait would work out, three centuries later, to 3,233,020,000 francs, according to the late Maurice Rheims, a Paris collector and auctioneer.
The king had made a poor investment, and Frick was “betraying the secret preoccupation of many collectors, which is to ensure that a work of art is as good an investment as it is attractive to look at,” Rheims wrote.
Whatever their secret preoccupations, new collectors continue to emerge throughout the world and are entering the art market at the highest level.
Seventeen collectors are new to the 2013 ARTnews 200 and one is new to the Top Ten, our lists of the most active collectors. They come from Russia, Brazil, China, Japan, England, Canada, the Netherlands, Finland, and the United States.
This is our 23rd year publishing the lists. Our correspondents interviewed dealers, auctioneers, collectors, museum directors, curators, and consultants in many countries.
According to Forbes magazine, there are 1,426 billionaires with an aggregate net worth of $5.4 trillion. The United States leads the list with 442 billionaires, followed by Asia-Pacific (386).
One art-world observer of billionaires told me recently, “You know the difference between them and us? For us, it’s money. For them it’s a wire transfer.”
I asked several art experts how many billionaires are prepared to spend, for example, $20 million on a work of art.
“Over 200,” said Marc Blondeau, who heads Blondeau & Cie, a Geneva gallery specializing in 19th- and 20th-century art. How many would go over $50 million? “About 100.”
Charles Moffett, executive vice president and vice chairman of Sotheby’s worldwide Impressionist, modern, and contemporary art department: “I’d say the figure for those going over $20 million is about 150. There are about 100 who would go over $50 million.” Last year Sotheby’s sold 13 works of art for over $20 million. Christie’s sold 20.
David Nash of the Mitchell-Innes & Nash Gallery in New York, which deals in contemporary and modern art, believes that there are about 200 very rich collectors who would shell out $20 million or more on one artwork. “As to $50 million on one work, well, $50 million isn’t what it used to be, but I’d say between 50 and 100,” he said.
Nash is now working with Walter Feilchenfeldt, a Zurich art dealer, and Jayne Warman, an art historian, on updating the 1996 catalogue raisonné of Cézanne paintings. The work was compiled by the late scholar and teacher John Rewald in collaboration with Feilchenfeldt and Warman.
In 2011, one of Cézanne’s Card Players series was sold for $250 million to the royal family of Qatar.
Warman said that in 1895, when Cézanne was virtually unknown, Ambroise Vollard, who was Cézanne’s dealer, sold a small Cézanne painting, Bather with Outstretched Arms, to Degas. The price was said to be $40.
At the same time, one observer wrote, Julien Tanguy, a Paris dealer in art supplies and art, sold small paintings by Cézanne for $8 but had trouble finding buyers.
Click here to see the complete list of collectors.