World record prices for artwork are regularly made and then broken. And it's not just in the contemporary art market, but across the investment spectrum in general. But who are the movers and shakers who make these miracles happen? Who can afford to buy a work like Francis Bacon’s 'Three Studies of Lucien Freud' which sold in 2014 for $142.4 million at Christie’s in New York? Well it isn't the ordinary man in the street, that's for sure!

Just to give you a taste as to how the other half invest, we present a handful of the glittering art investors who make the news with their purchases, but this list is far from comprehensive.

Roman Abramovich and Dasha Zhukova

Famous for acquiring Chelsea Football Club, dashing Russian oligarch, Mr Roman Abramovich is now a public and worldwide figure. From humble beginnings in Lithuania, he rose and rose and by the age of 30, had a controlling stake in the oil firm Sibneft (Gazprom Neft).

He also played a major part on the Russian political stage by personally recommending Vladimir Putin to the then Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Mr Putin reportedly now treats Abramovich like a member of his family. Together, with his glamorous girlfriend, Dasha Zhukova, Mr Abramovich has emerged as a major investor in the international art market. He loyally buys Russian art, and this includes the works of the conceptual artist Ilya Kabakov. However, he is also cognisant of the market for paintings by Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud et al. Ms Zhukova’s involvement in the art market (she is head of the Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture) has apparently encouraged Mr Ambramovich’s investing habits.

Mr Abramovich is clearly is a highly influential and knowledgeable person and it is likely we will continue to see him dominating the very top pinacle of the art market.

Francois Pinault

He is a French billionaire and founder of The Kering Group (formerly PPR) of luxury goods companies, and owns or has owned companies such as Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Converse shoes and Château Latour. Pinault, as the owner of Christies Auction House, also controls the world’s largest art business, and therefore has an intimate inside knowledge of the art market. He has also built up one of the world’s largest and most valuable new collections of art. This includes work by artists such as Damien Hirst.

Bernard Arnault

Pinault’s great rival in business, Bernard Arnault, is chairman and chief executive of LVMH luxury goods company, and is also a large scale collector of modern art. In fact in 1999 he bought Phillips de Pury auction house, in direct competition to Pinault’s Christie’s. And there is no doubt that the worth of his own art collection is probably incalculable.

Damien Hurst

As a former student of Goldsmiths College and the leading artist of the YBA’s, Hurst also has a talent for art investment and uncanny mastery of the art market. In 2005 he bought the enormous Gothic Toddington Manor, and restored it to house his art collection. The collection has a British focus, and includes works by Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons. Hirst buys predominantly contemporary, impact pieces that have simple messages. Curiously, like so much of his own work, the underlying theme of his collection is death. Perhaps the thought of his own mortality is the one thorn in his brilliantly successful life.


Amazingly, the company has 5,000 works of art and is displayed in more than 180 buildings. The collection is focussed on contemporary art from around the world, displayed for the benefit of Microsoft employees, their guests, and Microsoft customers. The company has a full time curator and collects mainly mid-level and emerging contemporary artists. Other corporations such as Deutsche Bank AG, also collect art, and in their case now own 50,000 works, including a Picasso and a Richter.

Al Nahyan Family

In 2007 the Louvre Museum announced an agreement between the French government and Abu Dhabi for the creation of a museum in the gulf state, to be called Louvre Abu Dhabi. The initiators of this agreement was the Al Nahyan family who has ruled Abu Dhabi since 1793.

The family fortune is estimated at $23 billion and they wish to purchase masterpieces from the past. The museum is still under construction today, and the family have begun their collection of artworks. Interestingly, it has been announced that there is no censorship (nudity is acceptable), despite the museum being located in a Muslim country.

The desire is to create a major international art collection within the brand of Louvre Abu Dhabi. This will transform Abu Dhabi into a tourist destination and give credence and prestige to the city state.

Prince of Liechtenstein

This 300 year old family art collection is probably the greatest private collection of European art in the world. Just after 1945, the collection was under threat, and so dozens of paintings were sold off to cover fiscal losses. The current Prince, Hans-Adam II, has managed to reverse this unfortunate happening and expand the collection, as well as buy back much of what was previously lost.

The family's successful LGT banking group has been the spur for this. Without the need to start a collection from scratch, the Prince only tries to acquire the very best old master paintings, sculptures and decorative arts. Most of the collection is held at the Liechtenstein Museum in Vienna.

The museum is packed from floor to ceiling with Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo masterpieces. Raphael and Rubens canvases are elbowed for space next to Boulle cabinets and Giambologna bronzes. Mysteriously, the Liechtenstein Museum has been closed since 2012 due to poor visitor numbers. However, we are sure that the enterprising Prince will find a way of getting the Museum back into the public eye.

Steve Cohen

As one of the most prestigious art collectors on the planet, Steve Cohen has spent hundreds of millions dollars on his quest of creating a unique and outstanding collection.

He owns several post-impressionist paintings such a Gauguin’s Bathers and Van Gogh’s Young peasant woman; a few modern artworks like Munch’s Madonna, and numerous contemporary pieces such as Willem de Kooning’s Police Gazette and Woman III. In addition, one of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings and Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility Of Death In the Mind Of Someone Living. The collective value of these works must be staggering.

Eli and Edythe Broad

Eli and Edythe Broad‘s collection is probably the best private collection of contemporary art in the entire world. With nearly 2000 works, which can be seen in LA’s The Broad Museum, the Broads possess artworks by such figures as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Joseph Beuys, Roy Lichtenstein and Edward Ruscha.

Poju and Anita Zabludowicz

Since the 1990s, Zabludowicz's have been collecting their 5,000-piece collection of artworks. They show their private art collection at three different locations, but mainly, at 176, a gallery in North London. Along with organising artist residency programs in Las Vegas, the Zabludowicz's plan to open up a privately funded contemporary art museum at some point in the future.

Lee Byung-chull

Sadly, Lee Byung-chull died in 1987, but his marvelous private art collection was opened to the public afterwards. This unique Korean exhibit is crammed with what the Korean government defines as national treasures. The collection is considered to be one of the largest private collections Korea.

Adrian Cheng

Adrian Cheng is a Hong Kong businessman and the heir to the billionaire Cheng Yu-tung, who founded the K11 Foundation, a non-profit foundation in China which encourages young contemporary artists and promotes public education. Adrian Cheng gets together works and showcases artistic talents from China, promoting cross-cultural dialogues within the world art scene.

Charles Saatchi

Charles Saatchi, a world-famous dealer and art collector, is one of the most important figures of the contemporary scene. For two decades, Saatchi has collected work from some of the most famous artists of our time. Saatchi’s collection is full of art created by the likes of Andy Warhol, Julian Schnabel, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and Anselm Kiefer. He is also a good example of a private collection placed online.

Philip Niarchos

When he passed away, in 1996, Greek shipping magnate Philip Niarchos left behind a personal fortune of around $5 billion and a fabulous collection of masterpieces rumoured to include the world’s largest private assemblage of works by Van Gogh. These possessions became the property of the son of the magnate, Philip Niarchos and now this collection is estimated to be worth around $2.2 billion.

David Geffen

David Geffen, former famous music producer, has a private collection of contemporary art which is perhaps the only one that can be compared with Eli Broad’s. He is the proud owner of several masterpieces by the best artists of the second half of the twentieth century. After he sold Jackson Pollock’s Number 5 and Willem de Kooning’s Woman III , his collection soared in value to around $2.3 billion.

Ezra and David Nahmad

Probably the most valuable collection ever seen on the planet is joint-owned by two brothers, Ezra and David Nahmad. It is estimated to be worth around $3 billion. Their simple strategy was buy a lot of artworks, hold them for a period and then sell them for a lot more than what they paid . Besides owning artworks like Etruscan sarcophagus pieces and Leonardo da Vinci’s oil paintings, the brothers own various works created by artists like Amedeo Modigliani, Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh.

The Duke of Sutherland

The Duke's collection is possibly the best collection of old master paintings in private hands. In 2003 the Duke sold Titian's "Venus Anadyomene" to the National Gallery of Scotland, whilst still being the owner of two other masterpieces by Titian, " Diana and Callisto" and "Diana and Actaeon", the latter being sold in may 2009 to the National Galleries of London and Scotland. He also owns a 1657 self-portrait by Rembrandt ,as well as the "Bridgewater Madonna" by Raphael and the "Sacraments" series by French master Nicolas Poussin.

Casa De Alba

The Casa de Alba collection at Alba House in the Palace of Lira, Madrid, now property of Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, includes works by El Greco, Veronese, Fra Angelico ("Virgin of the grenade"), Titian ("The last supper"), Velázquez ("The infant Margarita"), Correggio, Rubens, a landscape by Rembrandt, and several Goyas, including the portrait of the Duchess of Alba painted in 1795. In recent years other paintings have been added to the collection notably works by such modern masters such as Picasso and Chagall.

The Wildenstein collection

Regarded as one of the best private Art collection in the world, the Wildenstein collection still retains its aura of mystery. Dealers and collectors for many decades, the Wildenstein family has amassed a remarkable Art collection, valued at $10 billion. If it chose it could exhibit several masterpieces by some of the most important artists from the 14th to the 20th centuries, such as Caravaggio, El Greco, Van Gogh, Renoir, Gauguin, Cézanne, Monet, some Rembrandts, a number of Rubens, a Fragonard, and a recently rediscovered "Madonna and child with saints and the seven virtues" by Giotto di Bondone. Even a work by Vermeer still unknown by the critics. No collection can boast such rare acquisitions.

Steve Wynn:

Wynn has been a force in the Art market for more than 10 years. His amazing acquisitions for his private gallery at the Bellagio Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas are eye-popping. Highlights include works by Rembrandt and Joseph Mallord William Turner and masterworks by impressionist and modern masters such as Monet, Van Gogh and Picasso. However, it appears that Mr. Wynn is beginning to dissemble his fabulous collection, and in the last few years he has sold to collector Steve Cohen, two works by Gauguin and van Gogh, in addition to the famous and lamentable "elbow incident", when he accidentally damaged Picasso's "La rêvé" ("The dream") when the picture was due to be sold to Mr. Cohen for $137 million. I would argue that because a man such as famous Mr Wyn contributed to the artwork in this way, it has incresed the work's value.

Below is a link to an interesting article on Corporate Art Collections: