A trim, bespectacled 75-year-old man with a neatly cropped grey beard stands in the middle of a sprawling, light-filled exhibition space, a week before it will be opened to the public. His name is John Kaldor. In a move which has been heralded as the largest single donation to an Australian public gallery in history, he has given 260 works of contemporary art to the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney. Its estimated value is Au$40m (€30m), and Kaldor spent almost half a century collecting it. The works, which include pieces by Jeff Koons, Sol…
01Sol LeWitt’s ‘Wall Drawing #1091: Arcs, Circles and Bands (Room)’, 2003
02View from the Art Gallery of New South Wales’s modern Australian galleries
03Nam June Paik, ‘TV Buddha’
04View from the gallery
05Giulio Paolini, ‘L’altra figura’
06People at the opening party
07The John Kaldor Family Gallery
08Shaun Gladwell, ‘Approach to Mundi Mundi’
09Gilbert & George, ‘Dig’ (left), and Ugo Rondinone, ‘Clockwork for Oracles’ (right)
10Richard Long, ‘Spring Showers Circle’
11Carl Andre, ‘Crucis’ (front), and Donald Judd, ‘Untitled’ (rear)
12Sol LeWitt, ‘Pyramid’, 2005
The modern Medicis
Even John Kaldor’s collection of 260 works pales in comparison with some of the philanthropic giants of the art world. These incredibly wealthy families have built vast museums to house their ever-expanding collections.
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Family
Amassed over 70 years, the consonant-friendly Thyssen-Bornemisza family’s cut-price sale of their art collection to the Spanish state in 1993 was one of the most important acts of philanthropy Europe has ever seen. The collection features every important artist imaginable. The family continue to collect and contribute: Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza opened an eponymous museum in Malaga in March, housing her 19th-century Spanish art collection.
The Sainsbury Family
In the UK, scions of the J Sainsbury grocery empire are synonymous with art philanthropy. Lord Sainsbury, the Honorable Simon and Sir Tim Sainsbury donated £50m (€57m) to finance the Sainsbury wing of the National Gallery. Last year the family trust gave £25m to the British Museum for a new extension, while Simon Sainsbury donated £100m of works to the Tate and National Galleries. The Sainsbury Centre at the University of East Anglia boasts 5,000 years of art from South American antiquities to Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photography.
The Broad Family
Seventy seven-year-old collector and patron Eli Broad has done much to brighten the art scene in his hometown of Los Angeles. Besides a net worth of $5.8bn (€4.1bn), Eli and his wife Edythe own one of the greatest private collections of modern American art and, last year, announced Diller Scofidio + Renfro would design a museum space for it all, to be opened in 2013 on LA’s Grand Avenue. Described as LA’s version of Lorenzo de’ Medici for his generous patronage over the years, the Broads have been residents of LA since 1963.
The Koç Family
With four museums to their name, the philanthropic tentacles of the Koç family – the Rockefellers of Turkey – have already touched millions. But come this autumn, their bounty, earned from such industries as automotive, tourism and IT, will touch a whole new continent – North America. A $10m (€7.1m) donation to New York’s most prestigious institution – the Metropolitan Museum of Art – has meant the naming of two new galleries of Ottoman art as the Koç Family Galleries.
The Shoman Family
When the Chinese cultural attaché recently inquired about art in Jordan, he was directed to Darat al Funun – not the national galleries. Opened in 1993, the Khalid Shoman Foundation – Darat al Funun (house of arts) – offers exhibitions, artist residencies, conferences, workshops, a library and a café. Suha, the artist wife of the late Khalid Shoman whose father Abdul Hameed, a rich Palestinian banker, pioneered art collecting and philanthropy, manages the foundation. Along with her children, she collects living Arab artists with a focus on photography, video and installation. daratalfunun.org
The López Family
The philanthropic and collecting tendencies of 42-year-old Eugenio López Alonso have landed him the nickname of the Mexican Medici. He owns the largest private, contemporary art collection in Latin America – more than 1,300 pieces – and spends a reported $3.5m (€2.5m) every year funding artists. The only beneficiary to the Jumex fruit juice conglomerate will step into an even bigger spotlight later this year when he moves his collection out of a gallery located inside his family’s factory and into a David Chipperfield-designed museum hedged next to Slim’s Soumaya.