BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors

Important Museums and Private Collections

by Christiane Meixner

Besides giving an insight into more than 200 private yet publicly accessible collections worldwide, our authors also want to provide some background information about the art of collecting. Therefore we included concise texts about collecting, so called Shorties, in the BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors.

In the following Shorty, Christiane Meixner talks about the relationship between established museums and private art collections in the USA. Read below for details on how many important institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum or the Harvard Art Museums found their beginning in private art collections.

Why does an art collector give away his or her art? Or hand it to a museum that in return names a room or sometimes even an entire section of a building after the donor? This is the reason the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will be closed for three years beginning in 2013: the construction of new galleries for the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection, a private collection of over 1 000 works of modern and contemporary art. The Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge owe their outstanding artworks primarily to private collectors who have passed their treasures on to the university. And in the spring of 2013, Leonard A. Lauder announced that he will donate seventy-eight paintings and sculptures to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: masterpieces by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Juan Gris. The cosmetics tycoon explains the decision for the gift—worth an estimated one billion dollars—with a simple argument: it is a gift “to the people who live and work in New York.” That’s a statement that the metropolis certainly likes to hear. Although many collectors live in New York, the number of private showrooms accessible to the public is slim, particularly when contrasted to Miami and its many public-private museums. Only during art fairs, such as the Armory Show, via its VIP program, is one able to catch a glimpse how many treasures are hidden in the lofts and apartments of New York City. Discretion is appreciated, of course, and collectors maintain longstanding relations with museums—relationships, in many cases, now in the second generation. The willingness on the part of private collectors to share with public institutions has its roots in the history of American collecting: nearly all the important museums in New York began as private collections. But here, too, change is afoot: “It is much better to give twenty works to a small museum than to place 300 artworks in an extension of the MoMA or the Metropolitan Museum,” says collector Aby Rosen.

Christiane Meixner has been working as a freelance art critic since 1986 for a variety of magazines and newspapers. Since 2008 she has also served as a freelance editor of Der Tagesspiegel’s ”Art & Market“ section.

Insiders (68)


Exhibition venue with the theme ‚Living with Art‘

Wilhelmina Jewell Strong - Sparks

Founder of BiTHOUSE Projects - BAAR Art Journey


Collector behind the ARNDT Collection

Sandra Guimarães

Director of Museum of Contemporary Art Helga de Alvear

Grazyna Kulczyk

Founder of Muzeum Susch


Interview with Georgie Pope and Eleonora Sutter, Co-founders

Kamiar Maleki

Director at VOLTA

Gallery Weekend Berlin 2022

Tokini Peterside

Founder and Director, ART X Lagos


Founding Director of the Athens Biennale

Boris Ondreička

Artistic Director of viennacontemporary

Maribel Lopez

Director of ARCO

David Gryn

Founder and Director of Daata

Fondation Beyeler Audiovisual Broadcast

Fondation Beyeler and Nordstern Basel present Dixon x Transmoderna

Gary Yeh

Founder of ArtDrunk and Young Collector

WATCH: The Best of the BMW Art Guide

Where will you travel next to explore art?

Maike Cruse

2020 Gallery Weekend Berlin

Touria El Glaoui

Founding Director of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Johann König

Messe in St. Agnes

PArt - Producers Art Platform

A crisis initiative to help artists directly affected by the pandemic

Barbara Moore

CEO of Biennale of Sydney

Unique Collector’s Item

by Independent Collectors

Alix Dana

Fair Director at Independent

When Collectors are Able to Commission

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Juliet Kothe and Julia Rust

Initiators of Collection Night, Berlin

Marie-Anne McQuay

Curator of Wales in Venice, 58th Venice Biennale 2019

Dorothy and Herb Vogel

Two extraordinary art collectors

Heather Hubbs

Director at NADA

Every Art Collection Needs Space

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Collecting Art with François Pinault

Rudolf Stingel at Palazzo Grassi

A Common Ground

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Caroline Vos

Director at Amsterdam Art Weekend

Hidden Collections

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Nicole Berry

Executive Director of The Armory Show

Daniel Hug

Fair Director at Art Cologne

The Role of the Art Fair

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Peter Bläuer

Director at LISTE

A Brush Against Nature

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Ilaria Bonacossa

Director of Artissima

Excessiveness, the Latent Danger of Collecting Art

by Independent Collectors

Jo Stella-Sawicka

Artistic Director at Frieze

Florence Bourgeois

Director at Paris Photo

Where Artists Can Work More Playfully

by Christiane Meixner

Specifically Commissioned

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Manuela Mozo

Executive Director of UNTITLED, ART Miami and San Francisco

Susanna Corchia

Director of the Barcelona Gallery Weekend

Emilia van Lynden

Artistic Director at Unseen, Amsterdam

Carlos Urroz

Director at ARCOmadrid

Shoe Smudges Streaked Across the White Walls

by Christiane Meixner

Amanda Coulson

Director at VOLTA Basel

Douwe Cramer

Director at Singapore Contemporary

Art and Architecture – Attractive Allies

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Jo Baring

Curator of Sculpture Series, Masterpiece London

Bidders and Buyers

by Christiane Meixner

Anne Vierstraete

Managing Director at Art Brussels

Nanna Hjortenberg

Director at CHART

The Crucial Role of the New

by Independent Collectors

Makers and Believers

On Art History’s Most Famous Patrons

The Past is Back

And collectors are buying it up

Are Artists the Better Curators?

On the diminishing boundary between professions in the art world

The Digital Museum

On the importance of the museum’s web presence

The Man in the Middle

On the curator’s private and public engagements

A Private Matter?

On the importance of physical space for the value of art

Off the Wall

How museums contribute to the worth of artworks

Where to Go Next?

The fragmentation of Manhattan’s gallery scene

To Buy or Not to Buy

Collectors on their experiences of letting an artwork slip away

How to Pass On a Passion

On long-term challenges for new private museums