Larry’s List publishes report on the international art collecting scene


Willem de Kooning - Black & White Rome E (1959). Picture courtesy of Playing Futures: applied nomadology

Larry’s List, with the help of the University of Zurich, has published its first report on international art collecting, the Art Collector Report 2014. The Hong Kong-based company, founded in 2012 by Magnus Resch, has collected data on Contemporary art collectors, profiling more than 3,000 collectors from over 70 countries.

Four criteria were used to select the collectors: they must collect Contemporary art; their collection must include a significant number of works; the collector must be an active player in the art market; and they must maintain a certain level of public visibility. The report estimated that there were roughly 4,000 – 5,000 such collections across the world. The addition of less high-profile collectors would raise the figure to 8,000 – 10,000. The ratio of high to lower profile collectors varies according to the culture. In the United States, for example, displaying the trappings of success is not uncommon or frowned upon, whereas in Switzerland collectors tend to be more discreet.

It is in Europe where we find the largest percentage of collectors worldwide at 38%, with a further 28% hailing from North America, 18% from Asia, 8% from Latin America, 5% from Africa and the Middle East, and the remaining 3% from Australia. Nevertheless, 25% of collectors are currently based in the United States, making the American scene more important than those of Germany, Britain, and China put together. On a national level, more than half of the collectors are based in one of five countries: the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, and Brazil, while in terms of cities, New York leads the way with 9% of collectors, followed by London with 6%, and São Paulo with 3%.

Surge in numbers of Asian collectors
The report also provides a profile of the average collector, revealing an average age of 59, with 90% being over 40 years old, 8% between 31 and 40, and 2% under 30. At 29%, women represent less than a third of total collectors. In terms of profession, 12% work in the finance sector, 11% in media and entertainment, 7% in the consumer goods sector, 7% in the not-for-profit sector, and 6% in the health sector. The highest spending comes from Asia, which can be explained by the historical and economic context. The United States and Europe have a long-standing tradition of collecting, whereas the Asian market has developed on the heels of their recent economic boom, meaning it is the turn of Asian collectors to dominate the market. Prices are also highest in Asia, with Chinese artists selling their work at premium prices to a small number of collectors with significant spending-power.

The Art Collector Report 2014 also indicates that 53% of collectors own less than 500 works, with 19% owning between 500 and 1,000, and 28% owning more than 1,000. These results need to be considered with precaution as some are collectors of Land Art or outside sculptures, which limits the number of works. Around half of collections began in the period between 1980 and 2000. Painting remains the uncontestedly most popular medium, with 4 out of 5 collectors having paintings in their collection. After this comes sculpture, then photography, followed by installations and works on paper. As for the most popular artists for collection, Andy Warhol comes out on top, followed by Pablo Picasso, Damien Hirst and Gerhard Richter. Notably, half of the top 10 artists are American: Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Sol LeWitt, Jeff Koons and Roy Lichtenstein. American artists are very attractive to collectors, being found in 40% of collections. As for German artists, these are found in 24% of collections, the remaining percentage being split between British, French and Chinese artists. Japanese artists are found in eighth place in the list of the most-collected artists thanks to Takashi Murakami, who alone is found in 2% of collections. These figures highlight the fact that collectors and artists are often of the same nationality. The reasons that Larry’s List puts forward for this, range from crippling taxes to the need to feel “close” to local artistic production and to support a country’s artistic development.

Around 12% of collectors display their collection to the public via the Internet. As Sylvian Levy emphasises, “when we started collecting Chinese art, we wanted to share it with the Chinese. As we live in Paris, the only way of sharing our collection to a Chinese audience was the Internet.” The creation of catalogues or books to accompany collections is also a current practice; 10% of collections are associated with at least one publication, from monographs of one artist to overviews of the entire collection. Heiner Wemhöner, a collector based in Herford in Germany, adds: “the large part of my collection is stocked in a depot, and that’s why I’ve published three books on my collection.”

Collecting breeding philanthropy 
Collectors are also involved in the lives of public institutions, 37% of them being members of boards or committees of these institutions. In the United Kingdom and the United States, where philanthropic culture is very developed, the total amount of their donations in 2012 rose to $14.44 million. Today, a growing number of collectors are presenting their collections in private museums to which entry is free. Their motivation is varied, ranging from the simple desire to present their works in order to legitimately share their passion, to the desire to improve art education or programmes such as artists’ residencies.

Avoiding taxes is still another important reason, as Barry Keldoulis, CEO of Art Fairs Australia, commented: “In the majority of cases, it is a case of altruism. These are people who are very involved in contemporary art and who want to share their passion with a wider audience…”. There are 350 museums spread over 46 countries, 48 of which are found in the United States, representing 14% of private museums. Given that 25% of collectors are based in the United States, the number of private museums in the country appears proportionately weak. The inverse can be seen in Germany, where only 8% of collectors are found, but where 45 private museums are located, representing 13% of the total. In these two countries in particular, collectors can benefit from tax reductions if they present their collection to the public with a non-lucrative aim.

New York, Berlin, Beijing
Larry’s List has finally released its study on the most important regions in the world. In the United States, New York comes in first place as the city where most art collectors live (34%), followed by Los Angeles (11%) and Chicago (5%). Andy Warhol remains as the most prominent artist, as his works can be found in 17% of collections; Cindy Sherman is the only female artist in the American top 10. Willem de Kooning and Ed Ruscha, who are not in the international top 10, are ranked in third and fourth place respectively in the regional list, behind Pablo Picasso. In Latin America, Brazil comes first place with 57% of collectors living there, followed by Argentina (17%), Mexico (8%) and Puerto Rico (7%). In terms of cities, São Paulo is home to 36% of enthusiasts, which is more than all the collectors in Argentina and Mexico put together. Buenos Aires is ranked in second place for the regional top 10, with 16% of collectors living there, followed by Rio de Janeiro (11%). In Brazil, apart from 19% of collections that were started before 1960, a peak in beginning collections can be seen between 2001 and 2010 (27%). The collecting scene in Brazil is therefore relatively young, with artists such as Beatriz Milhazes, Alfredo Volpi, and Mira Schendel being particularly popular.

In Europe, Germany is the country inhabited by the most collectors (21%), along with the United Kingdom (19%) and France (8%), followed by Spain (7%), and Italy (7%). London dominates in terms of cities, with 15% of European collectors, followed by Paris and Berlin (both with 6%). In Germany, Berlin is home to 28% of all German collectors, followed by Dusseldorf (10%) and Hamburg (9%). The three most frequently collected artists in this country are Sigmar Polke, Joseph Beuys, and Gerhard Richter. The long tradition of German collecting can be seen from the fact that 72% of collectors started before 1991.

In Asia, 14% of collectors can be found in Beijing, 12% in Seoul, and 7% in Singapore. In India, the majority of collectors can be found in Mumbai (33%), New Delhi (27%), and Calcutta (13%) and a third of them are under 41 years of age. The artists M. F. Husain, S. H. Raza, and Anjolie Ela Menon are particularly popular. More specifically, in China, Beijing remains number one, with 41% of Chinese collectors, followed by Hong Kong (16%), and Taipei (14%). The most sought-after artists are Zeng Fanzhi, Zhang Xiaogang, and Zhou Chunya. Collections were gradually commenced between 1981 and 1990 (17%), before a large boom between 2001 and 2010, with 45% of new collections being established between these years, which probably explains the lack of popularity of private museums. “Having a private collection is a personal pleasure, showing a private collection is a pleasure that can be shared,” said Shanghai-based art enthusiast Zheng Hao.