Inside the Secret and Highly Expensive World of Hollywood’s Star Art Collectors

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In the nearly 30 years Barbara Guggenheim has worked as Tom Cruise’s artistic adviser, a theme has been established: “He collects very intense work, which has a lot of movement and which is very positive, and I think that’s what it is,” Guggenheim told The Daily Beast.

No kidding – over a decades-long career, Cruise cemented his reputation as one of the hardest working and most dynamic actors in the blockbuster business; a relentless force of nature that propelled Top Gun: Maverickthe box-office behemoth sequel to the 80s classic Valhalla this year and which also jumped for joy on Oprah’s couch.

Very little is known about Cruise’s art treasure. Guggenheim, citing his role as trustee, declined to answer specific questions about the size and contents of the actor’s collection. Undeniably, however, for celebrities of Cruise’s caliber, even the reported existence of a robust but mysterious art collection can communicate creative dexterity in a way few other material things can.

Among the ultra-A list, there are several luminaries known to own incredible collections. Leonardo DiCaprio, named after da Vinci by his artist parents, is a prolific treasure hoarder with an estimated $10 million personal collection that includes works by Takashi Murakami, Frank Stella and Ed Ruscha; he is also known to appear in auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

“When I started, a lot of people in Los Angeles, like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, collected social realism because they thought of themselves as socially responsible storytellers.”

— Barbara Guggenheim

The art collection of recording and studio executive David Geffen is estimated to be worth a staggering third of his personal net worth. The collection, which at one time included work by Pollock and de Kooning, is said to be worth $2.3 billion.

“When I started, a lot of people in Los Angeles, like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, collected social realism because they thought of themselves as socially responsible storytellers,” Guggenheim said.

Spielberg and Lucas, whose collections are estimated at $240 million and $600 million, respectively, both own several works by the iconically sentimental American illustrator Norman Rockwell.

An impressive and diverse cache of art is not something that comes together overnight.

“If I work with someone who is definitely serious – they read and research with me, they don’t just decorate their house – that’s when the dealers open the door and offer the best material.”

— victoria burns

“Some people think, ‘I’m a 25-year-old actress and I’ve made a lot of money, and I can just go buy whatever I want,’ and that’s actually not true,” Burns said. “You could be offered any work, because the dealers don’t take you seriously. You can’t just buy a collection: you build a collection. If I work with someone who is definitely serious – they read and research with me, they don’t just decorate their house – that’s when the dealers open the door and offer the best material. If you’re Alicia Keys or Swizz Beatz or Beyoncé, I mean those guys can just walk through the door,” Burns said.

No such problem exists for Cruise, who has proven over time to be an active and educated participant in the art world. “I’ve known him for so long, and his collection has followed a trajectory from more established traditional artists to more contemporary classics,” Guggenheim said.

But for the ultra-famous, other barriers exist. “Granted, I’ve been to galleries and auctions with Tom, but you have to do that after hours,” Guggenheim said. “I remember one day we walked out of a gallery and literally it was like 10 steps to the car, and maybe 300 people were surrounding it.”

Most celebrity clients are too busy to personally visit auctions, galleries and fairs, star advisor Maria Brito (clients include Sean “Diddy” Combs and Gwyneth Paltrow) told The Daily Beast. “The art world is way too big right now for anyone to follow unless you’re 100% dedicated to it,” Brito said.

Every day, Brito evaluates the 10-30 proposals from galleries seeking to place work with its clients that fill its inbox. She determines whether or not to show the work to her clients based on her knowledge of what could potentially turn them on, she told The Daily Beast.

Brito works with hardcore collectors who buy artwork weekly and are constantly on the lookout for something new. “Celebrity customers don’t really buy with that frequency,” Brito said, adding that celebrity collectors’ motivations for collecting differ from those that drive auction obsessives year-round.

“People might have seen something in someone and fallen in love with an artist, or heard a story from the owner of that house about how he’s the coolest artist,” said Brito. “Belonging to a club is a huge motivation for people: ‘If he has it, then I should have it.’ The truth is, it’s just hard to find someone who is a very independent thinker in the world of Hollywood.

Plus, all celebrity art collections are certainly not created equal.

“With each client, I try to understand what their collecting ambition is,” Los Angeles-based art consultant and consultant Victoria Burns told The Daily Beast. “Do they collect art for social purposes and image expansion? Are they trying to create a certain image of themselves and their personal brand through the art they collect? Or are they really emotional people who really need to connect with art? »

“He didn’t want Andy Warhol on his wall because he’s 35.”

— victoria burns

“I spoke with a guy in the music industry, and he was about to sell his first big song,” Burns said. “He wanted to collect art, and yet he’s young, so he said he wanted to collect from his own generation. He didn’t want Andy Warhol on his wall because he’s 35.

“The celebrity clients I deal with have a genuine love of art,” Jackie Wachter, senior private sales specialist at Sotheby’s LA, told The Daily Beast. “There are black clients I work with who are very focused on building collections of artists of color.”

“People see things on their friends’ walls too,” Wachter said, adding that most of his clients are in their 40s or 50s. “I recently sold a Beauford Delaney piece to a celebrity client who saw it on a friend’s wall.”

As more and more celebrities show interest in the collection, LA galleries like Various Small Fires, Sprüth Magers and M+B can barely keep up with the demand: two weeks to go,” said Burns. “They literally make six phone calls and everything is sold out.”

“People are catching the virus”

During Hollywood’s heyday in the mid-twentieth century, famous art collectors were rare because the American art collection itself was incredibly rarefied. In the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution, barons like JP Morgan and Henry Clay Frick crumbled to amass the most daunting bastions of the Old Masters, but famous art collectors didn’t really start pouring out of the woodwork until more recently.

There were innovators: Edward G. Robinson, a Romanian-American actor famous for playing hardened hoodlum roles during the heyday of Hollywood’s Golden Age, was a prolific collector in his private life: Robinson enthusiastically embraced African sculptures, early works by Reuven Rubin and Frida Kahlo and post-Impressionist masterpieces.

“Here is a paradox: turn killer and you have the means to quench your thirst for beauty,” wrote Robinson movingly when the Museum of Modern Art organized an exhibition drawn from his collection in 1953. and roles stained with sin, at a succession of sizzling electric chairs, paintings began to appear.

“In Hollywood, art is the scene,Barbara Isenberg explained in the Los Angeles Time in 1991. Around this time, heavyweights like Barbra Streisand and Jack Nicholson had collections well underway. Nicholson, who like Streisand began collecting in the 1960s, owns works by Modigliani, Magritte and Warhol, and artist Ed Ruscha has called the actor’s $150 million collection “one of of the best here”. The entanglement has a meaning: cinema is an art, so why shouldn’t those involved in the creation of moving images be so moved by the images?

In Los Angeles, major outposts of Christie’s and Sotheby’s (Phillips Los Angeles opens October 2022), as well as major galleries, are poised to meet the demands associated with the city’s identity as an arts hub.

“It feels like LA is becoming a lot more of a center than it used to be, which is really exciting,” Wachter said. “I think Hauser & Wirth is doing a great job. They really have a presence in Los Angeles, just like David Kordansky.

Long-established and ‘definitely serious’ Hollywood collectors also include Steve Martin, who has channeled his passion for Indigenous Australian art into exhibitions with the Gagosian Gallery; the late Gianni Versace, whose personal collection included Matisse and Degas; and Madonna, who began collecting in 1987 and has amassed a collection worth $100 million.

Along with the explosion of Instagram and the birth of ever-younger tastemakers, influencer moguls like the Kardashians are giving rise to a new breed of collectors: the heavily filtered contemporary art enthusiasts.

Ironically, at least three of the impeccably coigfed Kardashians own the work of Tracey Emin, the shocked and impressed British radical whose 1996 installation “My Bed” blew the art world away with its decidedly feminine misery. Kim favors the minimalist work of Isabel Rower, while Khloé opts for prints by Patrick Demarchelier.

“Collecting is a visual journey, an emotional journey, an intellectual journey, and a commercial journey,” Abigail Asher, Guggenheim partner at Guggenheim, Asher, Associates Inc. art consultancy, told The Daily Beast. “There are many different factors and considerations that go into collecting, and the goal is for the collector to be happy with all of those aspects.”

“I find that a lot of my collectors are gaining traction as I go along,” Wachter said. “They are more and more excited, more and more involved. They want to attend more events and visit more and more artists’ studios. People catch the bug. Celebrities are like us in that way.

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