Our Guide to 15 of the Top Celebrity Art Collectors (and the Art They Love), From Leonardo DiCaprio to Barbra Streisand
From the fashionable to the obscure, celeb tastes have had a major effect in galleries and at museums.
As Frieze gears up to welcome visitors to its inaugural Los Angeles edition, art-market enthusiasts are likely to encounter more celebrities than have ever walked the aisles of an art-industry trade show. But what do the people who create the music, TV, and films that you love love to look at?
We’ve trawled the archives, press releases, and Instagram feeds of some well-known art-appreciating stars to find out.
Beyoncé & Jay Z
Collecting Vibe: Bespoke self-promotion.
Favorite Artists: According to an interview with Garage in 2016, Bey is a fan of Tracy Emin, Donald Judd, Kara Walker, and Ed Ruscha. She’s also got a knack for helping emerging artists make their name; she commissioned photographer Awol Erizku to snap her pregnancy-announcement photos on Instagram, and then anointed Tyler Mitchell as her photographer of choice for a Vogue shoot last year, making him the first African American to shoot the magazine’s cover.
Jay has made his wish list public, having set his artistic inclinations to music a number of times, name-dropping everyone from Michelangelo and Rembrandt to Jeff Koons, Basquiat, and George Condo. He also staged a memorable performance in 2017 with a humongous Jeff Koons-style balloon dog as his set piece. He revealed that Damien Hirst had made a butterfly-laden canvas called Beat Life, Cheat Death (2008) inspired by one of his song lyrics, and also has a print of Hirst’s For the Love of God jewel-encrusted skull. In a 2010 interview with Howard Stern, the rapper gave specifics about the works in the Carter trove, including a piece by YBAs Tim Noble and Sue Webster, a painting by David Hammons, one by Ed Ruscha, and a few prints by Richard Prince.
Notable Transactions: The proud parents of Blue Ivy let their six-year-old daughter place the winning ($10,000) bid for a work by Samuel Levi Jones at the Wearable Art Gala in 2018. Oh, and there was the time that Beyonce made Jay return a black-and-white Laurie Simmons photograph of “a noirishly lit pistol with a pair of women’s legs emerging from the handle,” according to Rolling Stone, and replaced it with another Simmons piece, depicting a perfume bottle with legs instead.
Collecting Vibe: A diversified portfolio, not unlike the range of characters he’s played: Leo’s not one to turn down a starring role in a Scorsese blockbuster, but every now and then he’ll surprise you by producing a Netflix documentary about a Polish artist no one has ever heard of.
Favorite Artists: The actor was famously named after the other Leonardo, and he’ll soon be bringing the polymath to life in a biopic based on Walter Isaacson’s book. Like most art-collecting celebs, he’s a big fan of wunderkind Jean-Michel Basquiat, but he also has a yen for Walton Ford’s historically inflected tableaux; Brooklyn-based artist Jean-Pierre Roy’s surreal, apocalyptic landscapes; Eric White’s hyperrealistic scenes; and work by Frank Stella, Adrian Ghenie, Takashi Murakami, Urs Fischer, and Andreas Gursky.
Notable Transactions: In 2013, he posed for artist Elizabeth Peyton, and his countenance fetched more than twice its estimate, selling for more than $1 million at auction. The devoted environmentalist has also hosted his fair share of auctions to raise money for his foundation and, in 2015, donated John Gerrard’s Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada) (2014), a massive installation that reflects the orbits of the moon, to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (He later paid for an eco-friendly upgrade to Chris Burden’s Urban Light installation there.)
Also Worth Knowing: Leo is such a regular at art fairs that in 2017, artist Dora Budor created a slew of incarnations based on Leo’s most notable characters. Another less flattering art world entanglement involves a cast of characters including Leo, supermodel Miranda Kerr, and the Malaysian financier Jho Low, who is accused of embezzlement. Last year, DiCaprio willingly surrendered two artworks that had been gifted to him by Low: a $3.2 million Picasso painting and a $9 million Basquiat.
Kanye West & Kim Kardashian
Collecting Vibe: Edgy, fashionable, looks good on album cover and/or in music video.
Favorite Artists: Ye recently went on a tweet spree thanking fellow Chicagoan Kerry James Marshall for his artistry. He’s worked with Takashi Murakami multiple times; most recently the Japanese artist illustrated the cover for West’s collaborative album with Kid Cudi, Kids See Ghosts. Ye has also commissioned George Condo to create album art, and even had the artist hand paint an Hermès Birkin bag for his wife Kim Kardashian. The Wests teamed up with photographer Jürgen Teller for a bizarre photoshoot back in 2015, and there was that time Ye’s music video for Famous was brought to life as an installation Blum & Poe in Los Angeles.
Notable Transactions: At the rate he’s going, Kanye West might just endow a museum for his next press ploy—he was so ensorcelled by James Turrell’s light installation at MASS MoCA that the rapper gifted Turrell’s ongoing Roden Crater project a staggering $10 million.
Collecting Vibe: She collects out of passion—as a matter of fact, she recently told the Associated Press that she did her most recent tour to save up for a Modigliani purchase.
Favorite Artists: The songstress has a penchant for 18th- and 19th-century furniture and design and folk art. She has been a collector of American art since attending Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1992, where she was drawn to the White House’s collection. “It was a time of special optimism and I wanted to grace my walls with those painters America had given to the world,” she said.
Notable Transactions: In 2015, the Oscar-winning actress bequested an eight-foot-tall painting by John Singer Sargent, Mrs. Cazalet and Children Edward and Victor (1900), to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where she served as a trustee from 2007 to 2014. She bought the work in a private sale in 2002.
Sean “P Diddy” Combs
Collecting Vibe: According to his son, Quincy Brown: “He’s done it all. What’s left? Collecting art.” Brown also seemed to think that Combs’s record-setting purchase of a Kerry James Marshall was the start of a whole new endeavor, and that he would be starting “his own Getty Center” (but it was TMZ doing the questioning, so don’t take it too seriously).
Favorite Artists: Before his big 2018 splash, the music mogul was spotted a few years back at Art Basel Miami Beach, where he was sizing up works at Mexico City’s Galería OMR with art advisor-to-the-stars Maria Brito at his side. Diddy had his eye on works by Rubén Ortiz-Torres and Julieta Aranda. These days, it’s safe to say he is a big fan of Kerry James Marshall.
Notable Transactions: Art dealer Jack Shainman made a public show of thanks via Twitter to Diddy, after it was revealed he made the winning bid for Kerry James Marshall’s painting Past Times (1997) at Sotheby’s in May 2018. The $21.1 million price tag was a record-breaking price for Marshall’s work at auction, and the highest price ever for a living African American artist. (The transaction reportedly came at the encouragement of another celeb on our list, Swizz Beatz.)
Ellen DeGeneres & Portia de Rossi
Collecting Vibe: Cohesive, with impressive depth and attention to detail.
Favorite Artists: The comedian and her actress wife, who has recently entered the scrum of individuals hoping to democratize the art market, are actually legitimate art collectors with an envy-inducing array of works. A home tour courtesy of Architectural Digest reveals a ping-pong table by Rirkrit Tiravanija juxtaposed with a woven hanging sculpture by Ruth Asawa, while one of Diego Giacometti’s bronze felines has pride of place on the desk. The couple also own a mixed-media sculpture by Catherine Willis, and works by Mark Grotjahn, Ed Ruscha, and Andy Warhol look right at home in their Beverly Hills homestead.
Collecting Vibe: Americana with a focus on African American artists
Favorite Artists: A home tour of Oprah’s library revealed works by sculptor Gaston Lachaise and painter Harry Roseland. Above the mantlepiece is Back From the Fields (1945) by the master of Americana, Thomas Hart Benton. In her Indiana farmhouse, a vertical portrait by Roseland called To The Highest Bidder depicts a female slave on the auction block.
Notable Transactions: Back in 2015, a suite of collectibles from O’s collection were auctioned off by Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. But she’s best known in the art world for making a cool $62 million profit when she anonymously consigned Gustav Klimt’s full-length portrait to auction in 2016, where it fetched $150 million.
Also Worth Knowing: Oprah is a full-fledged cultural icon, so it’s no surprise that she starred in her own museum show at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Swizz Beatz & Alicia Keys
Collecting Vibe: Super-saturated, pop-inflected, larger than life.
Favorite Artists: Music impresario Kasseem Dean (better known as Swizz Beatz) and his wife, musician Alicia Keys, are two collectors with an increasingly large art-world footprint. (He says he bought 70 works last year alone.) He’s a superfan of Brian Donnelly, aka KAWS, and has one of the artist’s enormous wooden sculptures in his home. In one Instagram post, Dean and the artist are perched on the 19-foot-tall figure’s feet; in the background, a mirror reflects Kehinde Wiley’s massive Femme piquée par un serpent (2008). And, not for nothing, the photo credit is given to Jordan Casteel, who is on her own upward trajectory helping to usher in a new era of figurative portraiture.
The musical couple also owns work by Nina Chanel Abney, Dustin Yellin, Erik Parker, Michael Vasquez, Peter Saul, and an X-Men-themed painting by Hebru Brantley. The duo make it a point through their nonprofit, The Dean Collection, to support emerging artists like Carlita Lopez, a Bronx-based photographer, and are deeply committed to highlighting the works of contemporary African American artists including Henry Taylor, Derrick Adams, Cy Gavin, Arthur Jafa, Deana Lawson, and Tajh Rust. Like most celeb collectors, they also own works by the holy trinity of “classic contemporary” art collecting: Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Andy Warhol.
Dean also has the largest collection of Gordon Parks photographs in private hands, some of which will go on view at Harvard this spring, according to T magazine.
Notable Transactions: In addition to KAWS’s massive sculpture At This Time (2013), the artist leveraged his clout to bring home Tanda Francis’s sculpture from its installation at Socrates Sculpture Park. He also has engineered a number of exhibitions and initiatives, from the annual No Commission art fair to a grant program for artists to mount their own shows. On February 14, a show organized in part by Dean and curated by Nicola Vassell (an advisor to Dean and veteran of Pace Gallery and Deitch Projects) called “Dreamweavers” opens at UTA Artist Space in Los Angeles to coincide with Frieze L.A.
Also Worth Knowing: Dean joined the board of the Brooklyn Museum in 2015, is a staunch advocate for artist resale rights, and says he’s never sold a work from his holdings, only traded. He also had a role in shaping friend Sean Combs’s taste. He told T that he dissuaded the musician from buying a subpar Picasso lithograph when the pair visited Art Basel Miami Beach one year. “I told him, ‘That’s a bathroom piece, bro,’” he said. “And the gallery was so mad at me.”
Sir Elton John
Collecting Vibe: Once described as having “an art gallery designed by Austin Powers,” the Rocket Man isn’t shy about the art he loves, and he loves photography.
Favorite Artists: With major contemporary names like Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, and Robert Mapplethorpe sitting cheek to jowl with works by Minor White, Irving Penn, Man Ray, and George Platt Lynes, he has a veritable museum-quality collection of works—so much so, in fact, that in 2016, Tate Modern presented “The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography From the Sir Elton John Collection.” Although photography makes up the lion’s share of John’s holdings, he’s also a fan of Wang Guangyi, Tracey Emin, Keith Haring, Philip Taaffe, and (sensing a theme here?) Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Notable Transactions: In 2016, John consigned a collaborative work by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat to Sotheby’s. The untitled piece carried a high estimate of $1.1 million. It only achieved $935,000.
Collecting Vibe: A dedicated focus on Chicano art.
Favorite Artists: Cheech Marin used the money from his stoner comedy days to pursue his passion: art collecting. Over the years, Marin has assembled arguably the best collection of contemporary Chicano painting in the private hands. His 700-work-strong collection includes examples by pioneering painter Carlos Almaraz, the abstract painter and printmaker Gronk, Frank Romero, and Gilbert “Magú” Lujan. Marin is a frequent lender of works to institutions around the country.
Notable Transactions: Marin is currently on the path to building a museum dedicated to his collection. Last summer, the state of California approved a $9.7 million grant for the new museum, which will live in Riverside, east of Los Angeles. The windfall significantly boosts the project’s resources, more than tripling the $3 million already raised by Marin and his partner, the Riverside Art Museum. The museum is scheduled to open in 2020.
Collecting Vibe: Nude photography, art deco accents, female artists.
Favorite Artists: Without question, Madge’s favorite artists are Frida Kahlo and Tamara de Lempicka. The singer has multiple pieces by both women, and she’s clearly got her finger on the pulse; Kahlo continues her streak as a crowd pleaser with a major show at the Brooklyn Museum, and de Lempicka’s life will come to Broadway in the near future. A photographic tour of Madonna’s New York apartment also revealed holdings by Man Ray, Diego Rivera, and Salvator Dali; she also owns Fernand Léger’s Les Deux Bicyclettes, Picasso’s Buste de Femme a la Frange, and is a fan of guerrilla street artists Banksy and JR (who her son interned for back in August 2018).
Notable Transactions: She is so attached to her Kahlo painting My Birth (1932) that she turned down the Detroit Institute of Arts’ dogged requests to feature it in their show on the Mexican artist—though she did let the Tate borrow it some years back.
Collecting vibe: Contemporary darlings and “modern-feeling” Old Masters.
Favorite Artists: When he met former boyfriend Benjamin Maisani, Cooper says, he was only collecting “African hand-painted signs.” Now, crediting the tutelage of advisor Marisa Kayyem, the CNN anchor is a fan of contemporary artists like Toyin Ojih Odutola and Njideka Akunyili Crosby, whose work he likely discovered on one of his gallery-hopping outings in Chelsea, which he frequently documents on Instagram. He also owns work by Romanian painter Adrian Ghenie and Austrian painter Markus Schinwald.
Notable Transactions: Back when Cooper was still living with Maisani, the two made joint purchases at Manhattan art fairs like TEFAF, where they nabbed Anton Raphael Mengs’s Portrait of Mariana de Silva y Sarmiento, Duquesa de Huescar (later lent to the Met Breuer for its inaugural show) before heading over to Otto Naumann’s booth and purchasing The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew by the Italian painter Andrea Vaccaro.
Collecting Vibe: Not exactly “Wild and Crazy Guy,” but definitely personal and very individual. (He’s a serious enough collector that he has done an oral history interview for the Archives of American Art and the Center for the History of Collecting in America at the Frick; it will be released when he dies.)
Favorite Artists: Steve Martin has a yen for interesting figures who are definitely not the usual suspects. He purchased work directly from the late Gray Foy—recently seen at Francis Naumann Fine Art—and penned a fond New York Times piece about meeting him. He has also been one of the major boosters of Canada’s “Group of Seven” painter Lawren Harris, which he speaks eloquently about in the video below for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s 2016 Harris show. Martin was a trustee of LACMA from 1984 to 2002, and gave $1 million to the Huntington Library to benefit its American art collection. Also, as a playwright, he penned Picasso at the Lapin Agile, about a meeting between Picasso and Einstein in a bar.
Notable Transactions: Last year’s Barney Ebsworth estate sale at Christie’s featured a classic Willem de Kooning painting, Woman as Landscape (1954–55), which sold for a record $68.9 million. It was acquired by Ebsworth from Martin in 1991.
Collecting Vibe: Affordable art fair (he’s supposedly very cheap).
Favorite Artists: In a 2008 interview, McEnroe described being taken in by the work of Chuck Close and Richard Estes, but hadn’t yet made enough money on the court to afford originals. (He picked up more affordable figurative options by Audrey Flack and Tom Blackwell instead.) In his 2017 memoir But Seriously, Johnny Mac revealed being annoyed by Andy Warhol’s incessant attention-seeking antics at Studio 54, though he did ultimately purchase work (and even commission a portrait of him and his then-wife) by the pop artist.
Notable Transactions: The fast-talking, bullish tennis star who rubbed shoulders with Warhol in the ’80s actually owns his own Manhattan-based gallery, though he’s taken a step back from the art game since falling victim to an art-investment scam run by Larry Salander back in 2004. In February 2018, McEnroe sold his 32-foot Mark Bradford painting Helter Skelter I (2007) at Phillips, where it blew past its presale estimate, achieving $12 million and setting a new record for the artist. The work was acquired by Eli Broad’s eponymous museum in Los Angeles.
Collecting vibe: OK, so he’s not a major figure yet… but we are holding out hope for the Shape of You singer.
Favorite Artists: Just this week, Sheeran debuted his painted likeness by none other than David Hockney, and the portrait will be included in Hockney’s show at LA Louver. He also revealed on the BBC radio show Desert Island Discs that he was a big fan of artist Harland Miller, another Brit in the stable of White Cube Gallery.
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