The vitality of the art market is dependent on its collectors, who, in turn, rely on the prosperity of their respective industries. However, the question arises: from which industries do these influential figures derive their wealth, subsequently fueling the art market’s economy? Using the Top 200 Collectors list of 2022, Artsper analyzed those working across diverse sectors including real estate, entertainment, finance and technology, to examine the foundations of the art market’s framework and shed light on the top five industries that play a pivotal role in its growth and sustenance.
It is far from surprising that the financial industries proved themselves to be the most lucrative. Finance has long been an influential and advantageous industry, producing some of the wealthiest individuals across the world. And, it is even less surprising that many of the high-net worth individuals who have amassed vast fortunes through their ventures in finance, have become the biggest art collectors. The financial acumen coupled with the market expertise of those working in the financial sector, render them well-equipped to identify valuable art pieces and make strategic purchases that can yield significant returns.
Slinkachu, Tug of War, Bank of England, London, 2014 © Artsper
According to the list, the highest concentration of individuals made their money, at least in part, from investments, accounting for 21.5% of the top 200. This figure equates to 43 individuals, of which 17% hailed from the United States. Amongst them are collectors Raymond J. McGuire and Crystal McCrary, for whom a career in investment banking has provided them with the means to assemble a distinguished collection featuring works by acclaimed artists including Tschabalala Self and Lorna Simpson.
NB: Artsper counted several sectors under the global umbrella of the finance industry including those working in investment banking, insurance and venture capitalists.
2) Real Estate
Real estate was the second largest sector through which collectors made their money in 2022. Recognized for its capacity to yield substantial financial returns, it has emerged as a prime source of wealth amongst the top 200 collectors. Globally, the real estate industry was worth an estimated $3.69 trillion in 2021, a figure that has only continued to rise. 39 of the individuals on the list found financial success through real estate ventures, equivalent to almost 20% of the collectors cohort.
Heidi Schmelzer, Petite ville, 2018 © Artsper
The synergies between real estate and art are evident, as both entail an appreciation for aesthetics, design and the creation of unique and valuable assets. And, real estate proved lucrative regardless of geographical location. Of the American collectors amongst the list, 18 individuals amassed their fortunes through real estate endeavors, whilst nearly half of the collectors in China did the same. Contemporary art stood as the primary focus among these collectors, highlighting its significance and desirability within the art market.
Technology is a growing source of income amongst collectors, particularly in the United States. Almost 10% of individuals on the list made their wealth from technology and software. However, the impact of the tech industry on the art market is not limited to North America. India-based collecting couple Kiran and Shiv Nadar made their money from information technology services whilst Amy and Leo Shih, who reside in Hong Kong, found success through technology and trading. In Europe, notable collectors have also embraced technology to aid their wealth accumulation. Among them, Swiss billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli has distinguished himself as a collector of modern art thanks to his success in the biotech industry.
Joe Tilson, The Software Chart, 1968 © Artsper
Technology is not only supporting the growth of the global art market but also profoundly influencing the evolution of the contemporary artistic landscape. With the advent of innovative digital tools and platforms, technology has revolutionized the process of art creation as well as the way it is experienced and disseminated. This has opened new avenues for artistic expression including AI and algorithmic art. Digital art has become a passion for American collector Carl Thoma, who expressed to ARTnews that ‘you just knew this art would become mainstream one day’. Globally and within the art market, technology has become an indispensable force for wealth creation, shaping the future of artistic exploration.
4) Retail and Consumer Goods
Retail and consumer goods were industries from which roughly equivalent numbers of collectors accumulated their wealth. In the retail industry, notable figures include the Fisher family, who founded Gap, and e-commerce magnate Jeff Bezos, whose success earned him billions.
The sale of luxury goods found particular favor as a source of wealth amongst French collectors. 5 of the top 200 collectors on the list were French, including prominent individuals such as François Pinault and Hélène and Bernard Arnault. The Arnaults, renowned for their global enterprise LVMH, have the second largest fortune worldwide. Leveraging their substantial financial resources and entrepreneurial acumen, they built the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris in 2014. The cultural institution houses an exceptional collection of artworks including pieces by Cézanne, Basquiat and Schiele.
Fondation Louis Vuitton © Fondation Louis Vuitton
A significant portion of individuals within the top 200 collectors defied categorization within the main industry sectors. Ranging from César and Mima Reyes whose wealth stemmed from careers in psychiatry and Laurence Graff who amassed his wealth through jewelry, a diverse array of backgrounds and ventures characterized these collectors. Unconventional and distinctive paths to wealth were also evident amongst some collectors such as Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz, proprietors of the Coca-Cola family bottling companies in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Their extensive collection is housed in the Cruz Contemporary Art Space in Miami, which highlights their new acquisitions annually during Art Basel Miami Beach. 3% of collectors on the list derived their wealth from inheritance, a testament to the enduring legacy and intergenerational nature of wealth accumulation.
Richard Heeps, Indian Coca-Cola, Darjeeling, West Bengal, 2013 © Artsper
Redefining the art market
Overall, the industries that drive the art market are some of the most transformative and influential in shaping the global landscape. From the influence of technology in revolutionizing artistic creation and consumption, to the significant impact of investments and real estate on collector’s wealth accumulation, each industry contributes unique dynamics to the art market ecosystem. And, by understanding the profound impact of these industries, we are provided with valuable insights into the intricate workings and trends within the art market. As we continue to witness the art market's evolution, we’re excited to see which new and emerging industries will further shape its future.