Collecting for the Future: A Look at What the Top 200 Collectors Bought in 2021

The Editors of ARTnews

BY THE EDITORS OF ARTNEWS

Composite image of five art works,

Recent purchases by ARTnews Top 200 Collectors.COURTESY THE ARTISTS, THEIR GALLERIES, AND THE COLLECTORS

What does it take to rank among the world’s Top 200 Collectors? If there is a common denominator, it is a commitment to art that is an integral part of one’s identity. For Los Angeles–based Eli Broad, who, along with his wife, Edythe, was on this list every year from its very first edition, in 1990, until his death this past year, that commitment expressed itself in generosity—by way of the lending library he made of his collection—seasoned with more than a pinch of competitiveness: in 2015, when he opened his museum, The Broad, he told ARTnews, “If you look at art of the last 60 years, our collection is far superior to anything else in Los Angeles.”

[See the 2021 edition of the Top 200 Collectors list.]

For most collectors, the centrality of art in their lives comes across most clearly in a desire to experience art in person. Over the past year, reopenings of museums and galleries rippled across the globe as pandemic concerns eased, and the collectors on this list lit out to see art of all kinds. We asked what their favorite exhibitions were, and the shows they raved about amount to a sort of global grand tour, from Anne Imhof in Paris and Yayoi Kusama in Berlin to Alice Neel in New York and Zhang Enli in Shanghai. New additions to this year’s Top 200 similarly come from disparate locales—Taiwan, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong among them—representing the truly global nature of collecting today. In the pages that follow, you’ll see some of those new collectors alongside more established figures who are adding to their holdings as the art world navigates our ever-changing times.

Sarah Douglas, Maximilíano Durón, Alex Greenberger, Tessa Solomon, and Angelica Villa contributed to this report, a version of which appears in the October/November 2021 issue of ARTnews.
A sculptural installation consisting of, from left, a large red rock with a black rock on top, a large yellow rock with an orange rock on top, and a large blue rock with a white rock on top, installed in a vineyard.

Photo : ©The Donum Collection/Photo Robert Berg

Mei and Allan Warburg

Among the recent additions to the collection of Arthur Lewis and Hau Nguyen are three paintings: Danielle McKinney’s Other Worldly (2020), Somaya Critchlow’s Disjunctive (Wig), 2020, and Alexandria Couch’s Approach Me, I’m On Display, 2021 (shown here). All are part of the couple’s intention to build a “women-first [collection] that supports emerging women artists of color.” Having spent large stretches of time at home with their collection because the pandemic, “We found ourselves reimagining the stories we wanted to tell in each room of the house and filling those spaces with new voices,” they added. “It hammered home that it is more important than ever to support the artist community.”

Abstracted painting of an explosion of color against a blue background.

Photo : Courtesy Almine Rech

Sara and John Shlesinger

With many in-person fairs and exhibition openings halted during the pandemic, Sara and John Shlesinger used the lockdown to stay in touch with the artists they collect. “We take a personal interest in almost all of our artists and communicate with them on a regular basis,” Sara told ARTnews. The couple acquired several pieces for their collection in the past year, including works by Vaughn Spann, McArthur Binion, and the Haas Brothers. “John and I buy what we like and what we respond to on a visceral level,” she said. 

Image: Vaughn Spann’s Learning how to dance in the rain, 2021.

Mostly spare painting showing two cubes superimposed on each other at left and four more cubes at right

Photo : Courtesy Estrellita and Daniel Brodsky

Estrellita Brodsky

Almost a decade ago, when Estrellita Brodsky was organizing the first major Jesús Rafael Soto exhibition in the U.S., at the Grey Art Gallery in New York, she attempted to secure his 1955 painting Metamorfosis de un cubo as a loan. The work had figured in the Paris exhibition that effectively launched Soto to fame, and was to be an important part of the show. Alas, it was not to be. Last summer, when Brodsky learned the piece had hit the market, she snapped it up. “I was delighted to be able to acquire it,” she said.

Image: Jesús Rafael’s Metamorfosis de un cubo, 1955.

An unstretched canvas affixed to the wall. The canvas is mostly red with a swath of yellow and white in the upper section.

Photo : Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

Yang Bin

There’s good reason to be excited about a number of in-person exhibitions set to take place this year in China and Hong Kong, including the inaugural presentation of the M+ museum, which opens in November. But Yang Bin, who is based in Beijing, said he was just as thrilled by what collectors have managed to do online in the past year. “Recently, more Chinese collectors have stepped out of their cocoons and shown their collections online to communicate and share their experiences and their love for arts with the wider audience,” he said. “Readers can learn a lot on the Internet without having to leave their homes.”

Image: Vivian Suter, Untitled, n.d.

Ink drawing of animals grazing on a snowy hill.

Photo : Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros

Patricia Phelps de Cisneros

In between perusing the digital offerings of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (where she serves as a trustee) and visiting the Centro Léon art space in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, Patricia Phelps de Cisneros has begun collecting ballpoint pen drawings by Indigenous artists from Paraguay’s Chaco region. Made by forming animal and floral forms out of dazzling swirls of ink, these works by Floriberta Fermin, Esteban Klassen, and more were first shown on the website Preview.Art, in a presentation curated by Sofia Gotti. “I have been collecting Amazonian Indigenous art in Venezuela for 40 years, but this was a totally new type of language for me,” Cisneros said.

Image: Floriberta Fermin, Untitled, 2020. 

Painting of a woman in a surrealist room where music seems to magically come alive.

Photo : Courtesy Sotheby’s and Eduardo F. Costantini

Eduardo F. Costantini

When the world emerged from lockdown in the middle of 2020, Eduardo F. Costantini got right back to buying art. In June of that year, Wifredo Lam’s Omi Obini (1943), a painting featuring a colorful cascade of anthropomorphic forms, came to sale at Sotheby’s; Costantini paid $9.6 million for it, generating a new auction record for the artist. At that same sale, Costantini also set a record for Remedios Varo when he purchased her 1956 painting Armonía (Autorretrato Surgente) for $6.19 million. The latter work “prompts us to think about displacement and transformation,” Costantini said.

Image: Remedios Varo, Armonía (Autorretrato sugerente), 1956.

a dark-colored marble column installed horizontally on the floor, with a hunk of lighter marble on top that reads: il giorno mi pesa sulla notte

Photo : Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York/Collection Martin Z. Margulies

Martin Z. Margulies

Over the past few months, Martin Z. Margulies, who has been on the Top 200 Collectors list each year since its founding in 1990, has been busy preparing a major exhibition of Arte Povera works from his collection for his Miami exhibition space, the Warehouse. The show will bring together several rarely seen works by artists like Alighiero Boetti, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Jannis Kounellis, Giulio Paolini, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Mario Merz. Among the works set to go on view is a recent addition to the collection, Luciano Fabro’s marble sculpture Il giorno mi pesa sulla notte I (1994). It will be paired with the first Arte Povera work he ever bought, an untitled wood and metal assemblage by Jannis Kounellis from 1983, which esteemed art dealer Ileana Sonnabend sold him in 1988. The latter work, he said, has “a wonderful vibrancy to it, and I began to sense that this was something of significance to pursue for the collection.” He added, “Today I continue my travels to Italy and elsewhere, searching anywhere I can to find works from early Italian collections that were put together in the 1960s and 1970s. Today these works are very difficult to come by.”

Image: Luciano Fabro, Il giorno mi pesa sulla notte I, 1994.

Large-scale drawing showing various figures against a gray-ish, purple background.

Photo : ©Kara Walker

Kathrine Fredriksen

In early March 2020, just before the pandemic lockdown, Kathrine Fredriksen visited Kara Walker’s show at the Sikkema Jenkins & Co. gallery in New York, which included the artist’s over-18-foot-wide triptych Fealty as Feint (a drawing exercise), which Fredriksen had put on hold in 2019. “The minute I walked into the space, I knew it would be a great addition to the collection,” Fredriksen said. Looking ahead to 2022, Frederiksen is hoping to see more exhibitions, including the Joan Mitchell retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Baltimore Museum of Art; Mark Bradford’s survey at the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Portugal; and a Louise Bourgeois painting show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—all three of which will feature pieces from her collection.

Image: Kara Walker, Fealty as Feint (a drawing exercise), 2019. 

Painting with a grid of repeated face-like figures that are obscured by all-over red squiggly lines

Photo : ©Rashid Johnson/Courtesy Collection Carmignac

Edouard Carmignac

Faced with a new sense of unease during the pandemic, Edouard Carmignac did not turn toward buying easy art. Instead, he bought a work that he says is only emblematic of the angst he felt in 2020: Rashid Johnson’s Anxious Red Painting August 19th (2020), featuring rows of menacing scrawled faces. It now hangs in his Paris office. “These works transmit the anguish and the confinement that we have experienced recently with the lockdowns, but beyond that, a sense of the current moment, with its social, political, and racial problems,” Carmignac said of the newly acquired painting and another work by Johnson in his holdings. “I think that they reflect an angry world but also one full of change.”

Image: Rashid Johnson’s Anxious Red Painting August 19th, 2020.

Painting of an abstracted trees in a forest. At bottom: CS 1854. At top a sculpture element of florals.

Photo : The Komal Shah and Gaurav Garg Collection/Courtesy Garth Greenan Gallery, New York

Komal Shah

For Bay Area collector Komal Shah, the lockdown has been a time of  introspection. “Being home, without the frenetic travel-based lifestyle, has created a deeper appreciation that art not only enriches our life with beauty and pleasure, but it also pushes us to expand our horizons,” she said. Lockdown hasn’t stopped her from buying new works, like pieces by Moira Dryer, Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, the Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers, and recent Yale MFA graduate Lauren Quin. “Our pace of collecting has actually picked up in the last year and half,” she added.

Image: Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s Requiem (C.S. 1854), 1990.

Bronze sculpture of an angel with arms crossed

Photo : Courtesy Barbara and Jon Landau

Barbara and Jon Landau

Two of the foremost collectors of Renaissance and Baroque art, Barbara and Jon Landau are big fans of the Frick Collection’s recent rehanging in the Breuer building in New York (formerly the homes of the Whitney and the Met’s contemporary art program). “No one has ever seen the great Frick paintings and sculptures displayed in a museum setting, with works at eye level, so uncrowded, with plenty of room and wall space,” Jon said. “I experienced all of my favorite works as if for the first time. The Rembrandts, Hals, Titian, Holbeins, Veroneses, Goyas, and most of all, the Bellini, never looked better.”

A recent addition to their collection is Benedetto da Maiano’s Angel of the Annunciation, circa 1489.

Composite image of three paintings of the sky.

Photo : Courtesy Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani

Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani

Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani recently described their pre-pandemic, jet-setting travel to art destinations around the world as “crossing the sky,” so when they saw Ayesha Sultana’s 2021 series “Sky,” a recent buy, they were “instantly connected to these works.”

Images: Three untitled works by Ayesha Sultana, from her “Sky” series, all 2021.

Installation view of a two-channel film work. Screen at right: a crowd of people sitting outide on the ground. At left, a young girl stands over a black tarp with flowers on it.

Photo : Photo Alwin Lay

Julia Stoschek

A recent purchase by Julia Stoschek is a two-channel installation, titled Eurydice (2018), by L.A.-based artist Kandis Williams, who won the Hammer Museum’s $100,000 Mohn Award earlier this year. Stoschek quickly put the installation, which examines the ways in which Black people are festishized and erased through the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, on view at her Berlin exhibition space. “It’s a crushing work in an ambiguous way,” said Stoschek.

Image: Installation view of Kandis Williams’s Eurydice, 2018, at the Stoschek Collection, Berlin.

Black-and-white photograph of a wooden cabin in Louisiana.

Photo : Courtesy Sean Kelly, New York

Bob Rennie

Known as one of the foremost collectors of Kerry James Marshall’s paintings, Bob Rennie recently turned his attention to photographer Dawoud Bey, acquiring 24 pictures from his 2021 series “In This Place Here,” large-scale photographs of former plantations in Louisiana. Rennie also owns examples from Bey’s series “Birmingham” and “Night Coming Tenderly, Black.” The collector said he looks forward to when those images finally arrive in Vancouver: “To actually see the works in person that we acquired only through JPEGs—and conversations with Dawoud—will be my first journey back into the old normality.”

Image: Dawoud Bey’s Cabin, 2020, from his series “In This Place Here.”

Painting of a Black person who has two left hands that hold a red African sculpture.

Photo : Courtesy Arthur Lewis and Hau Nguyen

Arthur Lewis and Hau Nguyen

Among the recent additions to the collection of Arthur Lewis and Hau Nguyen are three paintings: Danielle McKinney’s Other Worldly (2020), Somaya Critchlow’s Disjunctive (Wig), 2020, and Alexandria Couch’s Approach Me, I’m On Display, 2021 (shown here). All are part of the couple’s intention to build a “women-first [collection] that supports emerging women artists of color.” Having spent large stretches of time at home with their collection because the pandemic, “We found ourselves reimagining the stories we wanted to tell in each room of the house and filling those spaces with new voices,” they added. “It hammered home that it is more important than ever to support the artist community.”

Realistic painting of red begonias.

Photo : ©Calvin Marcus/Courtesy David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles

Danny Goldberg

After recently buying works by Calvin Marcus and Rashid Johnson digitally, Sydney-based collector Danny Goldberg is convinced that art fairs will never truly recover from the pivot to online formats for selling art. “It is unlikely that we will ever return to the art world that was,” he said. “Technology provides new ways to engage the viewer, some of which will be seen as equally compelling and/or significantly better for different segments of the market.”

Image: Calvin Marcus, Untitled (Begonia), 2021.

A neon artwork that reads: Language must speak for itself

Photo : ©2021 Bildrecht, Vienna/Courtesy Heidi Horten Collection

Heidi Goëss-Horten

Lately, Heidi Goëss-Horten has been interested in building a collection of works in dialogue with one another. She recently acquired a piece by Conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth that plays off the work of some of the Italian artists in her collection, like Enrico Castellani, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Lucio Fontana. Another new acquisition, titled anna-tommie, a drawing of a green shoe with human organs inside by Austrian artist Birgit Jürgenssen, she said, speaks to the theme that runs through her work: abstract representations of the female form. The public may have a chance to see these works when a new private museum for the billionaire’s cache of sprawling contemporary art opens in Vienna in 2022.

Image: Goëss-Horten’s recently purchased Joseph Kosuth, No Number #3 (Not On Color Red), 1990.

Installation of around 25 drawings by Kara Walker shown closely hung on a gallery wall.

Photo : ©Kara Walker/Installation view at New Museum, New York/Photo Dario Lasagni

Michael C. Forman and Jennifer Rice

Amid the worldwide anti-racism protests in 2020, Michael C. Forman and Jennifer Rice began to rethink their collecting objectives. “We focused on acquiring new works by artists like Sam Gilliam, Kara Walker, Eric Fischl, Rashid Johnson, and Catherine Opie that reflect ways in which we were all impacted by a tumultuous and perspective-shifting year,” the couple told ARTnews. Currently, Johnson’s painting Anxious Red Painting July 1st hangs in the center of their living room, serving as a reminder of “the resiliency of the creative spirit.” As the lockdown eased in some parts of America, the couple slowly reentered the world, and were able to visit Gilliam’s solo presentations at Pace Gallery in New York and David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles, their favorite exhibitions of the past year. “His contemporary works are a true silver lining of the pandemic,” they said.

Image: Kara Walker, Book of Hours (ICBM’s for HBCU’s), 2020.

An empty wooden frame that is covered over with a chevron-like design in plastic.

Photo : Courtesy Grażyna Kulczyk

Grażyna Kulczyk

Poland-born, Switzerland-based collector Grażyna Kulczyk has long been committed to supporting women artists, in particular those who have been historically overlooked by the mainstream art world. Often, this approach requires extensive research. A few years ago, Kulczyk became interested in the work of Carla Accardi, the only woman in the Italian avant-garde artist group Forma 1. The collector was only just recently able to buy a work by Accardi: her assemblage work #639 (shown here) from 1970. “Bringing another Minimal artwork by a woman artist into the collection felt very needed,” she said.

Painting of two white candles that are lit.

Photo : ©Gerhard Richter/Courtesy Pierre Chen;

Pierre Chen

During the start of the pandemic, Pierre Chen kept busy—thanks, in part, to the fact that Taiwan, where he’s based, managed to keep Covid-19 relatively under control. In addition to buying a Gerhard Richter painting of two candles, which he calls “the best of the best” within the artist’s touted series, Chen attended two shows of work by Yoshitomo Nara held in Taiwan, at Taipei City’s Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts and the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts. That the shows went on while most countries weathered a deadly second wave is “a testament to our collective efforts through this extraordinary time, which ultimately led to a positive development in the art world in Taiwan,” Chen said.

Image: Gerhard Richter, Zwei Kerzen (Two Candles), 1982. 

View of an installation work with various photographs installed on a wall at different heights and two resting on a white table.

Photo : Courtesy Li Lin

Li Lin

Li Lin, who is set to open a contemporary art museum, By Art Matters, in Hangzhou in November, recently bought Tokyo Hotel-202108 (2017–21), a suite of 16 photographs by Cantonese artist Yang Xinjia. Of the work, she said, “I’m simply attracted by the wit and humor in the way that he spends his daily life, and the relaxing and natural attitude [toward] art and life are always what I pursue in my collection.” It’s fitting, given that By Art Matters’s opening show is titled “A Show About Nothing.”

Composite image of two wooden sculpture. Right: blue, white, and red long face. Left: green with eyes.

Photo : Photos João Liberato (2)

Andrea and José Olympio Pereira

The pandemic allowed Andrea and José Olympio Pereira to closely reexamine their collection over the past year. “It’s almost as if I were seeing new works,” José Olympio said. The pair saw a group of pieces by Brazilian contemporary artists from their holdings go on display at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brazil (CCBB) in Rio de Janeiro, and a recent acquisition of wood sculptures by Cícero Alves dos Santos, known as “Véio,” introduced them to other self-taught artists like Ze Bezerra and Aurelino and Indigenous artists like Jaider Esbell, Gustavo Caboco, and Daiara Tukano.

Image: Two untitled painted wood sculptures by Cícero Alves dos Santos-Véio, both 2009.

Painting of a Black man with a rifle and a young Black child with a rifle that is pointed. They stand in a serene wooded area

Photo : Courtesy Chase Hall Studio

Bernard Lumpkin and Carmine Boccuzzi

The shift online during the pandemic may have its pros, but Bernard Lumpkin, who, with his husband, Carmine Boccuzzi, has built one of the most important collections of Black artists, said in-person interactions have resulted in some of his best purchases. “The drawback is that Instagram browsing and click-to-buy collecting is not the same as engaging with art, and artists, in real life,” Lumpkin said. “Visiting galleries and museums, and developing meaningful relationships with artists and curators happens over time, and in person.” One example of that comes in the form of a recent acquisition of Don’t Fire Till You See the Whites of Their Eyes (2020) by Chase Hall, whom Lumpkin met in 2019 at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, where he’s a trustee.

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