The Most Innovative Art Collectors of 2015

This group isn't afraid of taking chances.

Jeff Sonhouse, Meeting at the Crossroads (2003) Courtesy the artist and the Pizzuti Collection.
Jeff Sonhouse, Meeting at the Crossroads (2003) Courtesy the artist and the Pizzuti Collection.

Judging from the number of seven-, eight-, and even nine-figure prices at auction this past year, there is clearly no shortage of trophy-hunters around the world to continue powering the global art market boom.

While money—and lots of it—is clearly a key prerequisite for collectors to play at the top level of the art game, we’re also interested in surveying the landscape to find out which players are adopting the most-innovative approaches to collecting, whether its keeping an eye out for the freshest work from cutting-edge talent, curating radical new shows or implementing new display formats, or finding and creating new spaces to explore ideas. Here are our selections for the most innovative collectors of 2015.

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1. Swizz Beatz
The Grammy-winning hip hop producer and collector (real name: Kasseem Dean) seems to be an ever-bigger presence on today’s booming contemporary art scene. Having curated a special selection for Scope in Miami last year, Beatz followed up this year with an even more ambitious project—a free art fair in the fast-growing Wynwood Art district called “No Commissions” that brought together established art stars like KAWS, Kehinde Wiley, SWOON, and Mickalene Thomas with lesser-known names like Hyon Gyon, and Gregory Siff.

Beatz told artnet News roughly 70 percent of the artists he featured were discovered through his Instagram feed. The 37-year-old entrepreneur has ambitious plans to bring “No Commissions” to cities around the world.  The idea is for all sale proceeds to go directly to the artist, which Vanity Fair called “the most left-field headliner at this year’s Art Basel in Miami Beach.” At night, the space was transformed into a concert venue, which included a performance by Beatz’s wife, Alicia Keys.

Of the collection—which he refers to as The Dean Collection—Beatz says the entire thing is ultimately destined for his children; he never sells anything once he buys it.

Alan Faena, Ximena Caminos

Alan Faena and Ximena Caminos in front of Damien Hirst’s Gone But Not Forgotten at Faena Hotel.

2. Alan Faena amd Ximena Caminos
Alan Faena and his wife Ximena Caminos were behind a huge part of the lineup at the most recent edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach. On a quick stroll around Faena’s sprawling stretch of mid-Miami beach property, visitors encountered a number of curious objets d’art, from a bespoke ocean-side roller rink that Faena commissioned from Brazilian-French collective Assume Vivid Astro Focus, and Damien Hirst’s gold covered woolly mammoth skeleton encased in glass, Gone But Not Forgotten (2014), to Jeff Koons’s large outdoor sculpture Coloring Book (1997–2005).

It’s all part of the Argentine-born impresario’s $1 billion Miami development that, when completed in the fall of 2016, will contain an arts complex called Faena Forum—designed by Rem Koolhaas’s Dutch architecture firm OMA—as well as three complex condominiums, and a just-opened luxury hotel.

Last week, the duo announced that Faena Art’s inaugural program this fall will launch with a district-wide, thousands-strong processional performance that will bring together artists, architects and community leaders from around the world. For the event, Cuban art collective Los Carpinteros will present “Conga Irreversible,” Spanish artist Miralda will create “Miami Global Banquet,” and Italian born artist Marinella Senatore will present “The School of Narrative Dance.”

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3. Qiao Zhibing
In an interview with artnet News earlier this year, Chinese nightclub owner Qiao Zhibing was frank about the fact that he initially got into art collecting simply because he had a lot of empty space to fill in his numerous night clubs. But it wasn’t long before the collecting bug officially bit him. Now he is considered to be one of the most influential contemporary collectors in China.

Qiao told us he prefers to focus on artists of his own generation, and to that effect has already added works by Zhang Enli and Liu Wei, as well as by some blue-chip Western names including Antony Gormley, Thomas Houseago, and Theaster Gates. Qiao said Shanghai is an exciting place for art right now because of strong governmental support.

Currently, he is focusing on creating his own art center and is transforming five disused oil tanks in the newest art district of Shanghai’s West Bund into a mixed-use contemporary art center. “I just want to find a more vibrant way to work with artists and influence more people,” he said.

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4. Eli and Edythe Broad
One of this year’s most buzzed about and long-anticipated art world events was the official opening of the Broad Museum in Los Angeles’s fast growing downtown district. The September 20 grand opening of the distinctive building—designed by Diller Scofidio +Renfro— was a must-see for art world cognoscenti, and it did not disappoint. artnet News columnist Susan Michals called it “awe-inspiring and breathtaking,” noting rooms dedicated to various artists, such as Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Takashi Murakami, and Damien Hirst.

With free general admission, the museum is home to 2,000 works of contemporary art, taking from the duo’s extensive collection.

IC-Ron & Ann Pizzuti

Collectors Ron and Ann Pizzuti at home in Columbus, Ohio. Courtesy of the Pizzuti Collection. Photographed by Scott Cunningham.

5. Ron and Ann Pizzuti
Just a few years ago, the building of a former insurance company in the revived Short North section of Columbus, Ohio was completely transformed into an elegant, spacious and light-filled exhibition space. It  now serves as the permanent display space of the Pizzuti Collection, formed over the course of the past five decades by Ron and Ann Pizzuti.

“We bought our very first piece, a print by Dutch artist Karel Appel in 1974 with $100 down and $100 a month because we liked it,” Ron Pizzuti told Forbes. “It’s still in our collection and I still think it’s beautiful today.”

That type of thoughtful, studied approach is particularly apparent in the Collection’s current exhibition “Us is Them,” which runs through April 2016. It includes standout pieces by artists such as Derrick Adams, El Anatsui, Nick Cave, David Hammons, Titus Kaphar, Aminah Robinson, Yinka Shonibare, Mickalene Thomas, Hank Willis Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems, and Kehinde Wiley.

Simon de Pury headshot

Simon de Pury

6. Simon de Pury
The always charming and ever-energetic Simon de Pury is a longtime veteran of the “bricks and mortar”auction business. This year, he and his wife Michaela took their auction expertise into the virtual realm with a new online auction venture called de Pury & de Pury. De Pury is always on the lookout for what is new and fresh.

At a Whitewaller and artnet sponsored panel on Instagram earlier this month, held at Faena penthouse in Miami Beach, de Pury said Instagram is perfect for someone like him who has “a short attention span.” He described how the social media platform has helped him discover and collect new artists, sometimes by accident, like when an eye-catching painting at the back of a gallery’s art fair booth leads to the discovery of a new artist.

Aby Rosen Photo: Clint Spaulding/Patrick McMullan.

Aby Rosen
Photo: Clint Spaulding/Patrick McMullan.

7. Aby Rosen
The same steely determination and business acumen that sometimes lands Aby Rosen in the headlines for certain high profile disputes also keeps him at the top of many world-class collector lists, and this year was no different. Rosen’s latest major real estate project is a luxury residence tower currently under construction at 100 East 53rd Street immediately adjacent to the famous Seagram building, also in his firm’s real estate portfolio. The 63-story building will have 94 units in total and each home is designed for residents with an appreciation of art, architecture, and cultural pursuits.

Of course there are already plans for site-specific works by some high-profile contemporary artists. First and foremost is Rachel Feinstein, whose giant mural painted on mirror will grace a marble wall of the front entrance. A smaller scale version of Feinstein’s mural was on view at the new building’s sales gallery (on the 15th floor of the Seagram building).

Rosen told artnet News that the smaller-scale model of the Feinstein mural was intended to give an idea of how the final work will be situated. “We love her New York upbringing. We love her way, how she paints on mirror. Basically you walk in and out of the building and you see yourself but you see yourself within a skyline or a fantasy world that she creates.”

There are plans for two other, relatively smaller commissions from New York artists, but these are yet to be finalized. We also saw eye-catching works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and Cy Twombly hanging on the walls of the sales gallery. “This is a little bit different,” Rosen added, on the subject of the art for the new luxury building. “It’s not like we’re curating and changing it all the time. When it’s a condo project like this, you’re going to set it in place and you want to let it mature. That’s how the art becomes part of the building.”

Budi Tek

Budi Tek.
Photo: Courtesy of LeapLeapLeap.

8. Budi Tek
Chinese-Indonesian collector, entrepreneur and philanthropist Budi Tek’s Yuz Museum in West Bund—part of Shanghai’s Xuhui District—once served as the hangar of Longhua Airport. This year the museum hosted “Myth/History II: Shanghai Galaxy,” the second of a series organized by the museum’s curator Wu Hung, the founder and director of the Center for the Art of East Asia at the University of Chicago. This iteration of the show featured work by Maurizio Cattelan, Liang Shaoji, Zhang Enli, and Zhang Jianjun.

This past summer, artnet News sat down with Tek in New York as he enthusiastically discussed future plans—emphasizing that he didn’t want to recount how he got started or what he bought early on. He was looking forward to showing off a major new acquisition, the now famous Rain Room by Random International, “a large-scale environment of perpetually falling water that ceases to pour wherever a person walks.” It went on view at Yuz this past September and remains there until March of next year.

Tek also discussed his project known as “Budi Desa,” meaning “Budi Village,” in Bali, Indonesia. He explained that land must be bought piecemeal in Indonesia, so he has slowly been acquiring parcels to create his art-filled village for roughly the past two decades. Tek says when the Rain Room eventually goes there, on permanent view, it will be “Rain Room in the Rain Forest.”

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Jorge Perez
Photo by Nick Garcia Photography

9. Jorge Pérez
In 2013, when the Miami Art Museum moved to its sweeping 200,000-square-foot facility designed by Herzog & de Meuron that overlooks Biscayne Bay, it was renamed the Jorge M. Pérez Art Museum.

Most of Pérez’s collection—comprised of works by modern artists from Latin America—was donated. More recently, he has shifted his focus to  contemporary art from Latin America and Spain. In addition, the collection includes a selection of holdings by American artists including Frank Stella, Kenneth Noland, Sol Lewitt, Alex Katz, Elizabeth Murray, Barbara Kasten, and John Chamberlain.

As founder and chairman of the Related Group,  Perez also oversees the company’s corporate collection and commission program for all of its international real estate developments.


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