Forbes’s 2015 Ranking of Billionaires Features Art Players Aplenty

Bill Gates, Bernard Arnault, and Michael Bloomberg in the top entries.

Bill GatesPile of Photos
Bill Gates
Pile of Photos

Forbes Magazine’s 2015 ranking of the world’s billionaires is out and, besides the overwhelming lack of women, one other thing stands out: the substantial number of names who are involved in the arts, either as heavyweight collectors or as philanthropists.

The list’s #1 entry, Bill Gates, is a renowned art collector, best known for having purchased Leonardo da Vinci‘s collection of mostly scientific writings, the Codex Leicester, for $29 million. Gates scanned and distributed the codex digitally. The billionaire, whose reported net worth is $79.2 billion, also purchased the 1898 painting Lost on the Grand Banks by Winslow Homer for $36 million.

Closing in at #2 is the Mexican telecom billionaire Carlos Slim, who counts the founding of the Museo Soumaya in 2011 among his many endeavors. The Mexico City-based museum features a collection of over 66,000 artworks dating from the 15th to the 20th century, according to the Art Newspaper.

David Koch appears on the list at #6. The philanthropist brewed up a media storm last year, having donated $65 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

When the David H. Koch Plaza was unveiled last September, a group of protesters crashed the opening to criticize Koch’s involvement with the Tea Party movement and his denial of climate change (see Protesters Crash Koch Plaza Opening at the Met).

Bernard Arnault graces the list’s #13 position. The LVMH CEO’s involvement in contemporary art collecting is well-known, and was cemented by the opening of the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris last October. The Frank Gehry-designed museum offers a program of temporary exhibitions as well as highlights from Arnault’s vast collection (see Bernard Arnault Opens Up About Art, Fashion, and His New Museum and As a Museum, Frank Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris Disappoints).

Next on the list is Michael Bloomberg. The former mayor of New York City is a collector of Old Masters, with a penchant for 18th century painters like Joshua Reynolds or Thomas Gainsborough, according to the New York Times. A few contemporary artworks might have slipped into Bloomberg’s net, however, as he is reported to also own works by Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns.

Further down the list, at #47, is Michael Dell. According to Forbes, the computer tycoon is behind what could well be the biggest photography purchase in history. In 2010, Dell bought a collection of 185,000 vintage prints from Magnum Photo Agency for a rumored $100 million.

Other names from the list’s more than 1,700 entries that will be familiar to art insiders are Paul Allen, Eli Broad (see Eli Broad Sues Museum Contractor for $20 Million Over Delays), François Pinault, Ronald Perelman (see Ron Perelman vs. the Whole “Ugly” Art Market), and Steve Cohen (see Hedge Fund Honcho Steve A. Cohen Is Buyer of $101 Million Giacometti).


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