Culture

The Art of Collecting

Seven of the best private museums in the world right now.
By Mark Ellwood

The Broad

Los Angeles, CA
thebroad.org

After a spat, billionaire Eli Broad cut his longtime ties with MOCA, LA (where he is founding chairman)and commissioned this custom-built home for the collection he and wife Edythe have amassed. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler, the 120,000-square-foot building acts as an anchor for the Grand Avenue cultural district downtown alongside the Disney Concert Hall and MOCA itself.

What You'll See
The 2,000-strong collection focuses entirely on postwar and contemporary art, with an emphasis on American names like John Baldessari and Cindy Sherman. Ingeniously, part of the collection is stored in an on-site vault that is easily accessible to curators keen to borrow pieces (look down as you ride the elevator to enter to see it).

Eat & Shop
The small store in the airy lobby sells limited-edition prints and books, plus items like artist-designed skateboards. There’s no café inside; rather, the de facto canteen is Otium next door, which focuses on Napa-style cooking with a wood-fired oven.

The Garage

Moscow
garagemca.org

Oligarch Roman Abramovich and his then-girlfriend Dasha Zhukova opened this kunsthalle together in 2008 in an old bus depot (hence the name); the splashy party was headlined by Amy Winehouse. Since then, it’s moved twice around the capital, finally settling in the middle of Gorky Park. The museum—a brand-new building designed by Rem Koolhaas—was built around the bones of an old Soviet-era café that Abramovich had draped in translucent polycarbonate.

What You'll See
In 2013, superstar curator Kate Fowle was hired to build its profile and attendance (close to a million people visited last year). A canny focus on well-known contemporary artists draws the crowds: think Rashid Johnson and Takashi Murakami, who created a site-specific work for the entrance to celebrate his show there, which was the first major exhibition of his work in the country.

Eat & Shop
The store maintains a comprehensive assortment of art magazines and books. A huge café on-site offers a seasonally updated menu.

Bourse de Commerce

Paris
palazzograssi.it

Luxury magnate François Pinault already owns two museums in Venice: the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, a former customs house where he displays a rotating haul of the contemporary art he owns. In 2020, he will open a third site, yet another repurposed historic building—the iron-domed Bourse de Commerce in the heart of Paris. Offered a cut-price lease by the mayor, he again hired Japanese minimalist Tadao Ando, a veteran of both Venetian projects, to reboot the space.

What You'll See
Pinault, whose family holding company controls the auction house Christie’s, has a 5,000-strong collection that’s big on heavy-hitting American talents: Cindy Sherman, Cy Twombly, and Jeff Koons, among others. One recent show in Venice was dedicated entirely to Damien Hirst, for which the artist produced a slew of special sculptures—and which received a critical mauling from reviewers.

Eat & Shop
Both Venetian sites feature modest cafés and bookstores, so expect the Bourse to follow suit, especially with all those Parisian bistros nearby.

The Long Museum

Shanghai, and elsewhere
thelongmuseum.org

It was his wife, Wang Wei, a former auction house staffer, who piqued the curiosity for collecting in Liu Yiqian. The onetime taxi driver became one of modern China’s wealthiest men after investing in real estate and pharmaceuticals; she steered him to spend much of that fortune on art. The first of their Long museums (named, per Wang, as she hopes for them to be an enduring feature of the Chinese cultural landscape) opened in Shanghai’s Pudong in 2012. A second site in the city, on the West Bund, followed two years later; there are now satellite spots in Chongqing and Wuhan, too.

What You'll See
Liu has a magpie-like affinity for pricey baubles, whether Amedeo Modigliani’s painting “Nu Couché,” which he snapped up for $170.4 million as an impromptu gift for his wife, or the dainty Ming porcelain cup that cost him $36.3 million at auction—and which he later prankishly used in a photo shoot to actually sip tea. These, and much else from the couple’s eclectic collection, form the basis of shows at Long’s four sites.

Eat & Shop
Perfunctory at best. At the West Bund site, for instance, there’s a simple store and a basic café just across the courtyard, with brightly colored furniture and a menu of coffee and snacks.

Rubell Museum

Miami
rfc.museum

In the early 1990s, this private museum opened in a repurposed DEA warehouse in Wynwood, an edgy part of mainland Miami. It’s fitting that, three decades later, as the neighborhood is now gentrified, the collection would decamp elsewhere—this time, to a new home on a 2.5-acre site in Allapattah, another on-the-rise ’hood. Designed by Selldorf Architects, the space opens to the public on December 4, in time for Art Basel.

What You'll See
Building the 7,000-strong contemporary collection here was a true family project: Parents Mera and Don (brother of the late Studio 54 owner Steve) made their first acquisition in 1964, and they continue to grow their collection with their son Jason. The haul here is diverse and almost survey-like, from the self-taught Miami-based artist Purvis Young to Keith Haring (they were his early champions).

Eat & Shop
The family is tight-lipped about plans for the new courtyard site, though expect the dining spaces to have some novelty. Daughter Jennifer does double duty as a conceptual artist whose work includes edible, interactive installations, as when visitors to a show were handed jars of yogurt and encouraged to walk around the room catching honey as it dripped from the ceiling.

White Rabbit

Sydney
whiterabbitsydney.com

When Judith Neilson, then-wife of billionaire asset manager Kerr, hired a Chinese artist living in Sydney to be her tutor, it was a life-changing decision. That artist, Wang Zhiyuan, took her to his homeland and toured galleries and studios across China with her. Dazzled, she wanted to share those artworks with a wider audience and established this private museum in 2009, housed in a former Rolls-Royce service depot.

What You'll See
Neilson is determined to assemble the best archive of contemporary Chinese and Taiwanese art in the world, visiting China three or four times a year to acquire works. Every six months, the show here is reinstalled with new acquisitions.

Eat & Shop
The store on-site sells books, including her own, the illustrated kids’ story Ming and the White Rabbit, plus an assortment of design-driven gifts relating to the gallery and exhibitions. There’s also a charming teahouse, bustling at lunchtime as visitors scarf down homemade dumplings and a range of Chinese teas.

The Saatchi Gallery

London
saatchigallery.com

In the United Kingdom, advertising guru Charles Saatchi is synonymous with contemporary art, having opened his first, namesake gallery in 1985. It hopscotched around London, including one stint inside the grand onetime government offices of County Hall, close to Big Ben, before landing in its current, permanent location in Chelsea in 2008. It’s now housed in a 70,000-square-foot listed building (a former military school) on King’s Road.

What You'll See
Saatchi is most closely associated with the YBAs (Young British Artists) of the 1990s, like Tracey Emin, Jake & Dinos Chapman, and Damien Hirst; their controversy-chasing work was catnip to the publicity-savvy Saatchi. His holdings have broadened since then, and one recent show here featured ancient Egyptian artifacts to celebrate the centenary of unearthing Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Eat & Shop
The Gallery Mess restaurant here focuses on modern British cuisine—upscale fish and chips, Eton mess—but there’s no reason not to explore the stores and restaurants that line King’s Road, one of London’s toniest strips.

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