Columns on fashion, culture and ideas

Art & Culture / In Pictures

Frieze Special: Top 10 Collectors

In Pictures is a still and moving image gallery for significant works, events and places

Peggy Guggenheim and her dogs
Peggy Guggenheim and her dogs

Yesterday Charles Saatchi auctioned off a portion of his expansive art collection. To mark the event, we celebrate our all time favourite collectors.

Yesterday, celebrated art collector Charles Saatchi auctioned off a huge selection of art works from his personal collection at Christie's. Coinciding with the annual Frieze Art Fair, over 50 sculptures and installations were up for grabs – with all proceeds going to the funding of free exhibtions at the Saatchi gallery – including a four poster bed with hand embroidered hangings designed by Tracy Emin. The show, entitled Thinking Big took place in a disused postal depot in order to accomodate the size of the works. To celebrate the sale of the vast collection, AnOther have compiled a list of their Top 10 Collectors, from Saatchi's fellow devoted art hoarders to the owners of slightly more unique collections of extravagant hats, priceless diamonds and retro board games. 

1. Herb and Dorothy Vogel

The unlikely celebrities, post office worker Herb Vogel and his wife Dorothy lived for the majority of their lives in a 450 square foot, one-bedroom apartment that was like no other. Their Manhattan home was adorned, floor to ceiling, with one of the most prestigious private art collections of the century. The couple dedicated their lives to collecting works of art. Without any formal training they went on to purchase priceless pieces from Jeff Koons and Roy Lichtenstein as well as sketches and scribbles by Chuck Close and Richard Tuttle. They had no children, but a menagerie of pets including 20 turtles and 8 cats, all sharing the tiny apartment. By the mid-80s the driven pair were forced to admit they could no longer house their expansive collection and they donated their amazing 2,400 pieces to the National Gallery claiming they did not want money, they simply bought the art because they loved it. 

2. Raf Simons
A short lived, but much enjoyed, career in furniture design cemented Raf Simons' appreciation of interior design and art. The now creative director of Dior lives in Antwerp, in a 1968-built modernist apartment, filled with a vast, but carefully selected contemporary art collection that includes works by Mike Kelly, Evan Holloway, Cristel Brodahl and Picasso. Simons is still enjoying an illustrious career in the fashion industry but claims that art is his first love, saying, "Fashion is so intense, art takes me away."

3. Dr. Seuss
Theodor Seuss Geisel – known to the majority of us as Dr. Seuss – believed hats were the exclamation point on a human's behaviour, that they held some sort of magic for the wearer. Throughout his lifetime he collected hundreds of styles of elaborate headwear, from fur helmets and striped top hats, to exotic feathered head pieces. It is said that Seuss' hats provided him with inspiration when he needed it most, and that they were the starting points for some of his most famous characters.

4. Charles Saatchi
Perhaps one of the most famous art collectors in Britain, Saatchi began his career as co-founder of the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, but turned his attention to art after he purchased his first work at the age of 26, a work by minimalist artist Sol Lewitt. He went on to become an art mogul and a huge supporter of the YBA's, becoming responsible for the success of such reknowned artists as Damien Hirst and Marc Quinn.

5. Peggy Guggenheim 
When Marguerite 'Peggy' Guggenheim's father tragically lost his life aboard the Titanic in 1912, he left her a trust fund with which she began to build her copious art collection. Peggy spent many of her younger years in Paris, soaking up the culture and living a tempestuous personal life in the social spotlight, filled with her two great loves, art and sex. She accquired a huge selection of modern art and took to Venice in 1947 to exhibit works by Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. It was here that she purchased her future home and regularly opened her vast collection to the public. In 1969 Peggy donated her collection to The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, set up by her uncle in 1937 to house his own collection which is held in the 5th Avenue Frank Lloyd Wright spiral building in New York. After her death in 1979, Peggy's private Venice home was converted into a museum and now holds one of the finest small art collections in the world.

6. Frank Sinatra
He is feted as the most celebrated swing singer of all time, but music was not Frank Sinatra's only love. He also had a penchant for model trains, an appreciation that began when he visted his friends – and fellow musicians – The Dorsey Brothers, who had a huge Lionel train layout in the basement of their house. Sinatra was inspired and not long after dedicated an entire section of his California Ranch, dubbed The Train Building, to his blossoming collection. It housed a huge track and vast collection of model trains worth over $1 million that continue to run to this day.

7. Quentin Tarantino
One of the greatest directors of our time, Tarantino is known for his gore-filled, award-winning cult films. Responsible for cinematic trimuphs such as Pulp Fiction and Resevoir Dogs, it is no surprise that his collection relates to the screen. He is the owner of a very specific collection of board games, all of which relate to retro television shows such as The A-Team and The Dukes of Hazzard. The television theme began with a lunchbox collection but that was quickly discarded and replaced with the board games after Tarantino deemed them a lot more fun and lot less expensive.

8. Henry Wellcome
A traveller, pharmaceutical entrepeneur and keen archaeologist, Henry Wellcome intended to create a Museum of Man, filled with art, artefacts and wonders he had accumulated during his lifetime. He had an obsession with medical related objects and by the time of his death, he had over 125,000 of them. The fascinating objects now make up the majority of the Wellcome Collection in London. Wellcome also left intstruction in his will that a trust be set up in his name dedicated to bettering human and animal health. The Wellcome Trust is now the largest charity in the UK funding breakthrough technology in areas such as biomedical science.

9. Yves Saint Laurent
Over a 50 year period, the celebrated designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berges accumulated one of the largest and most expensive art collections of the 20th century. The pair met the year after Saint Laurent became the head of design at Dior in 1957, aged just 21. They immediately began to build their collection, an all encompassing mix of Mondrians, Art Deco furniture, bronze chinese scultptures and antiques. Saint Laurent had a personal relationship with the pieces he accquired, saying, "Often when I buy an object it sleeps with me the first night. I look at it from every side and the next day it takes its place." After Saint Laurent's death in 2008, Berges decided to auction off their collection, donating half the profits to the YSL foundation and half to AIDs research. The auction fetched an amazing £333 million, which was a record for a single owner collection.

10. Elizabeth Taylor
It was no secret that Elizabeth Taylor adored her jewellery. Never seen without lashings of glittering gems, she fully advocated the saying, "diamonds are a girls best friend." Throughout her lifetime Taylor accquired over 300 pieces, including a 240 carat South African Diamond given to her as a gift by Richard Burton, which has since been named The Taylor Burton Diamond. In 2011, Taylor's huge collection was auctioned off at Christies in New York. The selection of iconic pieces sold for a total amount of $116 million, the most money ever made from a private collection.

Text by Rhiannon Wastell

Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates