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The Five Largest Art Collections in the World and What Art Collectors Look For


10 Feb 2023

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As most private art collectors prefer to keep the value of their collections out of the public eye, knowing the exact worth of a collection is rather tricky. We have rounded up five of the most well-known, valuable and largest private art collections in the world, as well as investigated what art collectors look for when it comes to collecting works of art to add to their collection.

The Five Most Valuable and Largest Private Art Collections in the World:

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1.Ezra and David Nahmad’s Collection

Well-known forces in the art world, brothers Ezra and David Nahmad come from a family of art collectors and dealers. As businessmen with backgrounds in investment banking and the gambling industry, the pair have been collecting and trading art since the 1960s. It is estimated that their collection is one of the largest, allegedly valued at $3 billion – including one of the largest collections of works by Picasso.

According to the Art & Collecting section of The Market Herald, the Nahmad brothers has built a 15,000 square feet duty-free building near Geneva Airport, which hosts approximately 4,500 works, including paintings and sculptures, and pieces by well-known artists such as Monet, Renoir, and Matisse. The collection boasts a further 300+ paintings of Picasso, valued at $1 billion.

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2.David Geffen’s Collection

The founder of Dreamworks Animation and Asylum Records, David Geffen holds the most valuable art collection owned by a single person, worth $2.3 billion. He is a skilled businessman and is known as a smart collector who buys coveted and unobtainable artworks and then sells them at just the right time.

His vast collection includes works by Post-War American artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning. One of his most notable sales was Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”, which sold for a record breaking $119.9 million in 2012 – then setting a record for the most expensive artwork sold at auction.

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3.Eli and Edyth Broad’s Collection

Husband and wife Eli and Edyth Broad are American philanthropists and entrepreneurs who have built one of the most influential art collections in the world. In 2015 they opened The Broad Museum in Los Angeles, which offers free admission to view works from the couple’s contemporary art collection.

The Broad is home to nearly 2,000 works in the Broad Collection by more than 200 artists, featuring works by contemporary artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Yayoi Kusama, Julie Mehretu, Takashi Murakami and Andy Warhol. Valued at $2.2 billion, the collection pays homage to the couple’s belief that the greatest art collections are built when the art is being made, i.e. they took to collecting art “of their own time” and making it accessible to all.

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4.Steven Cohen’s Collection

Steven Cohen, founder and CEO of Point72 Asset Management, is an avid art collector with a diverse collection of works by Post-Impressionist painters such as Gauguin and Van Gogh, and Post-War and Contemporary artworks by De Kooning, Pollock and Damien Hirst.

Along with his wife Alexandar, the couple began collecting art in 2000, and have since reportedly spent more than $1 billion on their collection. As an active buyer and seller of formidable works of art, Cohen is known for some of the most notable purchases and sales in the artworld, including the purchase of Picasso’s “Les femmes d’Alger” for a record breaking $160 million in 2015.

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5.Joseph Lau’s Collection

Former chairman of Hong Kong property developer, Chinese Estates Holdings Ltd., Joseph Lau is known for his extensive art collection, and recently featured in Fortune when he sold dozens of mostly Hermes handbags for $3.2 million in an auction by Sotheby’s. Showing that Lau is not only a collector of art, this event was named the first part of a “visionary collection of Joseph Lau” and was the largest single-owner handbag sale in Asia’s auction market.

Handbags aside, Lau owns a vast collection of art including works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Warhol, Gauguin and Hockney, and Forbes has valued his collection at a worth of at least $1 billion.

As diverse as these collectors and their private collections, are the reasons why collectors acquire certain artworks and their rationale behind what they look for. We explore some of the factors that come into play for art collectors looking to purchase new works:

Investment Potential: One of the primary motivations for art collectors is the potential for art as a tangible asset that can increase its value over time, making it an attractive option for a diverse investment portfolio.

Personal Taste: Purchasing art is a personal experience, and collectors look for pieces that connect with their individual tastes and styles, from Impressionism to Contemporary works.

Historical Significance: Collectors may seek out works that have historical and cultural meaning, that were impactful during a certain period or represent a movement or moment in time.

Condition & Provenance: Whether an artwork is in a good condition and whether it has a clear and verifiable history of ownership are other important considerations, as these impact value and authenticity.