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Aspirations and motivations of the world’s most powerful art collectors - I
In this feature series, we shall unravel aspirations, motivations and inclinations of some of the world’s most renowned art collectors presently, and what prompts them to collect art – they way only they can do. One common thread that binds them, as it seems, is their keenness to institutionalize their rich and vast collections. All of them have or want to start their own museums, to publicly display their art instead of keeping it into confines of their private empires – a streak of thought that’s really noteworthy!

Artur Walther

A renowned German-American collector focused on publicly exhibiting and promoting contemporary photography and video art since the late 1990s, Artur Walther studied at Harvard Business School. He served as a general partner at Goldman Sachs till his retirement. Simultaneously, he started collecting photography and established The Walther Collection. The collection is open to the public at its Neu-Ulm, Germany based museum campus as well as its Project Space in the New York City. Instead of acquiring works of the well-established artists, he looks for those names typically respected in their home countries, albeit yet to attain global recognition. Of course, once he turns his attention to them, fame and name is far away such is the charisma of the savvy collector.

Sheikha Al Mayassa

The young and progressive propelling force behind Qatar's quest to become a foremost destination for the arts & culture in the Middle East, the daughter of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikha Al Mayassa chairs the Qatar Museum’s Authority board. Her vision is to create a solid base for the Islamic Art tradition, even while promoting contemporary artists in an effort to link past and present, East and West. Harboring a passion to foster intercultural relations and give voice to people from every strata of life, she focuses on community interaction and participation, involvement and engagement.

Art+Auction has already named her among the most powerful persons in the world of art. In fact, she has been purchasing art in institutional and individual capacity, and is considered a major force behind the Qatar Museum’s acquisitions including Rothkos, Warhols etc, and also many in Doha's three national museums. She believes that art and culture play a significant role in creating a country's identity, and let every country share its identity with the outside world. The avid art collector quips: ‘We (obviously) don't want to be all the same, but (we) do wish to understand each other."

Budi Tek

This maverick collector’s portfolio runs into over a thousand pieces, spanning across the genres of installations, video works, paintings, public sculpture, and photographs. Budi Tek hardly bothers about the frenzy people get into over the money part of it all, like the wave he created after buying a work by Zhang Xiaogang for a whopping $ 6.7 million at a 2010 Sotheby's auction. For him, all that matters is the work's critical discourse.

Chinese contemporary art is a favorite with this an Indonesian Chinese agribusiness owner. His journey as a collector began with a Balinese sculpture almost a decade ago. Beyond sheer love for art what drives Budi Tek is his determination to guard the ‘national treasures’ and to create an educative enriching and lasting experience. His collection in a way depicts the Chinese contemporary art’s evolution. He is also keen on Malaysian, Japanese and Arabic art. Tek also has an Anish Kapoor and a Subodh Gupta in his kitty, though the collector concedes he has some catching up to do before focusing on contemporary Indian art. Cultural philanthropy forms the core of his life mission, and wants the ‘rich and mighty’ to take interest in art. His Yuz Foundation aims to form a network of museums and art spaces in Shanghai, Beijing, Jakarta, and Bali.

Liu Yiqian

From among the younger generation of super-rich Chinese, Liu Yiqian is probably the biggest art collector. The media often dubs him ‘the eccentric Mr Liu’ – he shaves only occasionally, and mostly wears T-shirts to work. However, his savvy investment style indicates he is a smart and thoughtful collector. Liu's art investments are done in conjunction with Wang Wei. His wife takes up curatorial tasks and focuses on Chinese art. The couple plans to build a museum in Shanghai to display their ambitious collection.

Steven and Chiara Rosenblum

The founder of Pixmaniam, a known European digital goods e-tailer, Steve along with his wife Chiara runs a contemporary art showroom based in Paris. About a decade and a half ago, the two began collecting African art (masks, shields, musical instruments and fabrics). About 8 years ago, the two developed a keen interest for contemporary art. Their collection truly consolidated over the past four years or so, as they increasingly made major acquisitions. Drawing from what’s buzzing in the online realm, their dream project (‘Rosenblum Collection & Friends’) looks to facilitate a vast social network in which the artists and their works act as a binding force.

The couple not only displays the collection but also seeks inputs and additions from others to further enhance it. According to Chiara, establishing personal contact with each artist is crucial, hence they collect the artworks of living artists only. The two meet different artists, talk to them, and follow their various projects. Steve reveals that the artists would offer books, films, and musical works, which have played a part in the construction of their imaginary. This public library will grow over time and will be made available to the visitors. It’s a different way of accessing the inner world of artists, to help understand their work.

Jose, Alberto and David Mugrabi

Jose Mugrabi, a powerful Israeli collector, owns probably the world's biggest collection of Andy Warhol’s paintings almost 800 of them - apart from works by Rodin, Ernst, Daumier, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Renoir and Picasso. No other art buyer has capitalized on the iconic artist’s appeal than Mr. Mugrabi. Dealers and auction houses can rarely sell or buy a Warhol work sans his knowledge and intervention in form of active bidding.

Along with his two sons, this former cloth merchant from Colombia has fostered his love for art. The patriarch has the final say on all business and art related matters. His younger son David is known to be a quiet and practical person, whereas Alberto or ‘Tico’ is a gregarious jetsetter. Born in 1939 into a humble Jewish family, the son of a grocer and also the eldest of seven, Jose Mugrabi spent his early days as an errand boy for a fabric firm. He never went to college, and learnt the tricks of textile business on his own. He started a company that imported wholesale fabric during the 1970s.

For the record, Jose Mugrabi never met the late artist personally. He spotted him once - at a restaurant in New York in 1985, even before he had begun collecting his work. Curiously, at that time he hardly knew anything about the painter. Were Warhol still alive, he avers, he would sure come over to meet me…