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Esther Grether?!? Forbes’ List of Collectors With $700 Million-Plus in Art

Esther Grether, mega-collector

It’s a lot more select than the ARTnews 200.

Forbes Magazine
has come up with a story and slide show devoted to the world’s Top Billionaire Art Collectors. It’s mostly the usual cast of characters, with one surprising wild card.

Keren Blankfeld, Cristina von Zeppelin and Susan Adams report:

During our quest to pin down these extraordinary collections, we
discovered a new fortune belonging to Esther Grether, a little-known
Swiss cosmetics heiress whose 7.5% stake in Swatch and art collection
of more than 600 pieces, including ones by Paul Cézanne, Salvador Dalí
and Francis Bacon, make her not only a billionaire but also the only
woman in our list of top art collectors.

Actually, there would be more women if Forbes did what ARTnews does in its 200-collector list (which includes Grether)—list wives who are partners with their husbands in forming the family collection. ARTnews publishes a Top Ten drawn from its 200,
but those, according to Milton Esterow, the magazine’s editor and publisher, are the year’s “most active”
collectors, not necessarily the ones with the highest-valued
collections. Six collectors appear on both lists.

How Forbes managed to pinpoint the values of these large, far-ranging collections in today’s careening market is anyone’s guess. But for what it’s worth (or not), here’s the Forbes Fourteen, with the magazine’s rough estimate of each collection’s worth:

Philip Niarchos, $2 billion
François Pinault, $1.4 billion
Eli Broad, $1 billion
David Geffen, $1 billion
Ronald Lauder, $1 billion
Nasser David Khalili, $900 million
Leonard Lauder, $800 million
Paul Allen, $750 million
Leon Black, $750 million
Steven Cohen, $750 million
Henry Kravis, $700 million
S.I. Newhouse Jr., $700 million
Esther Grether, $700 million
Leslie Wexner, $700 million

All of them get close-ups in the slide show, which includes photos of the collectors and more details on their backgrounds and holdings. But the press-friendly Eli Broad has pride of place: He also gets to star in his own video, where he boasts of paying peanuts for works by emerging artists who went on to become today’s megabucks art stars.

an ArtsJournal blog