Bags full of money and mansion walls to fill, it’s no surprise that celebrities love to splash their forever flowing cash on incredible art. We know everything about them; from their latest squeeze to their latest front cover, but do they have the connoisseur’s eye to make it in the world of art? Some have it, some definitely do not, here’s a list of the top A-List collectors who are cashing in and cashing out the best masterpieces of all time.
Drug dealer turned art dealer, Jay Z’s collection is pretty much the Holy Magna Carta Grail of art collecting. In 1996 he dropped his first Picasso lyrical reference, although the track was more about guns and drugs than art, it was clear he’d been hit hard by the art buying bug. Mona Lisa, Mark Rothko, Picasso again and again, Jeff Koons and his balloons, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol…the bluechip track kept spinning, but how did he stop ‘talking’ and start collecting? Inspired by his Queen of course, Beyoncé. Combined, they boast one of the most impressive collections in tinsel town, reportedly worth hundreds of millions, if not billions. Notable pieces by Andy Warhol, Tim Noble, Laurie Simmons, Ed Ruscha, Shepard Fairey, Richard Prince and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Thought it’s never been confirmed if he indeed owns an authentic Picasso or not, Jay Z did take his smash record, ‘Picasso Baby’ to a whole new artistic level by performing it 6 hours straight in collaboration with Marina Abramović. Lastly, Jay Z doesn’t only just talk, sing and rap about art, he also inspires it! Damien Hirst created Beat Life Cheat Death in 2008 which was provoked by lyrics ‘This is why I be so fresh, I’m trying to beat life cause I can’t cheat death’ in his track ‘Pray’. Damien Hirst…artist turned rapper, watch this space.
Art school dropout, Eric Clapton not only holds one of the most iconic music careers of all time, but also one of the finest and most valuable art collections in the world. Strumming in works such as Edgar Degas’s Le Sommeil, Henri Matisse’s Nu Debout, Maurice Utrillo’s Le Bouquet and others by Serge Poliakoff, Bridget Riley, Sir Matthew Smith and Severeni, Clapton is unquestionably winning the art game. In 2012 he sold Gerhard Richter’s Abstrakes Bild at Christies auction for $34million. Purchasing the painting in 2001 along with two others for a total of $2 million, the work, considered ‘a master piece of calculated chaos’, caused more than a riot by being the highest price ever paid at auction for a living artist. He later went on to sell his second in the Richter series for $20.9 million and third in late 2016 for $22.1 million. That’s a lot of millions right there folks.
Baller on the tennis court, baller in the art world, John McEnroe has served up a mighty fine art collection over the years. Back in the day he hung out in Studio 54 with the likes of Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Basquiat, oh and a guy called Andy Warhol who mentioned him in his famous diaries. In 1994 he opened his own art gallery in SoHo, NY, by appointment only, in true celebrity fashion. McEnroe’s first ever purchase was a work by realist artist Audrey Flack, and in true entrepreneurial spirt McEnroe exchanged tennis lessons for art lessons in the 80s with Eric Fischl, the popular neo-expressionist and American sculptor and painter. His personal collection includes pieces by Tom Blackwell, several by Basquiat, Ruscha and Warhol. Let’s just hope he doesn’t smash as many artworks as he did tennis rackets.
Sir Elton John
‘When I wake each morning in my room in Nice I am surrounded by the works of Schnabel, Hockney, Warhol, Cecil Brown, Philip Taaffe and photographs by Norman Parkinson, a fashion photographer I adore. I spend my time moving around them.’ – Elton John
Not a bad way to wake up in the morning you are right Sir Elton. It’s no surprise that the man is constantly surrounded by masterpieces as he owns 8,000 of them. Recently, the Tate Modern in London showcased 200 of these works in The Radical Eye Exhibition. This included Self-Portrait King, Man Ray, the unorthodox Hungarian André Kertész and the black and white photography Queen, Berenice Abbott. Elton has been collecting since the early 90s and counts big dogs Damien Hirst and Ai Wei Wei as close pals. If you thought his pad in Nice sounded not too shabby, Elton’s 18,000sq ft. apartment in Atlanta could rival the Musée D’Orsay or maybe even The Public House of Art in Amsterdam. Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Matisse, Max Ernst, André Breton, Tracey Emin, Keith Haring, Wang Guangyo, David LaChapelle and a number of limited full-colour photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe are there for Elton to sing and dance around all day. The sheer magnitude of his collection makes it fairly certain that there is no well-known artist this man doesn’t own.
Written by Paris-based freelance writer, Joanna Reid for The Public House of Art