Billionaire Art Collector Nicolas Berggruen Announces $1 Million Philosophy Prize

Nicolas Berggruen.
Photo: Paul Bruinooge/

The Beggruen Institute, an independent research group founded by art collector and financier Nicolas Berggruen, launched the Berggruen Philosophy and Culture Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday, which is backed by an advisory board including political scientist Francis Fukuyama, writer Alain de Botton, economist Amartya Sen, and journalist Fareed Zakaria, among others.

The abstract program will include a partnership between American and Chinese universities; an “ideas contest” co-sponsored by the Aspen Institute; and an annual $1 million prize awarded by an international jury.

The first class of eight fellows, which include former Taiwanese prime minister Jiang Yi-Huah, had its first seminar over the weekend at Stanford University.

According to the institute’s website, the center “will support projects that build bridges between cultures, disciplines, the normative and the empirical, experts and the public, and political leaders and thinkers.” It will also seek to include “artists, writers, architects, scientists, historians, poets, psychologists, musicians, the military, and public officials to help enrich and communicate Philosophy and Culture Center’s mission.”

Beggruen, who has a dual German and American citizenship, told the Times, “We want to have an impact in a world that is becoming more and more fractured culturally and politically,” he said. “It’s so clear that different political traditions really come from different cultures, from different views of the world, which in the end have to do with philosophy, with religion, with thinking in general.”

Formerly called the “homeless billionaire” for his lifestyle of living in hotels around the world, Berggruen, who is also the son of an art dealer, has amassed an extensive art collection throughout his lifetime including works by Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, Mike Kelley, Gerhard Richter, and Martin Kippenberger, among others.

According to Forbes, his current estimated net worth is $1.67 billion.

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