A new patronage of the arts?


Contemporary Art

Not long ago I wrote on this blog about Naoshima, the Japanese island since the eighties devoted to contemporary art. A magical, one-of-a-kind place conceived by enlightened entrepreneur Tetsuhiko Fukutake and his son Soichiro Fukutake, who – together with Tadao Ando – built a series of museums on this special island, turning it into a place where to showcase pieces of art from personal collections and host the most prestigious living artists. A patron’s dream, a fantastic one.

According to an interesting research carried out by the Economist, Naoshima is only the most extraordinary example representative of a wider global trend: since 2000 in fact more than 225 private contemporary art museums have opened their doors to the public, which is indeed wonderful news. It would be impossible to talk about each one of them, but luckily the Economist has shortlisted for us the top five private museums to visit at least once in a lifetime.

Beyeler Foundation, Beyeler, Riehen, Switzerland
When Ernst Beyeler – considered by many as the last great contemporary art collector – passed away in 2010, the value of his personal art collection was estimated in the vicinity of 1.85 billion US dollars. A 250 piece-strong selection comprising of artworks by artists of the caliber of Van Gogh, Lichtenstein, Bacon, Monet, Braque, Picasso, Mondrian, Giacometti, Seurat, Klee, Rodin, Matisse, Calder, Degas and Chagall, on display within the glass-walled architectural masterpiece designed by Renzo Piano.

Sammlung Boros, Berlin, Germany
Hosted in a former nazi bunker with 2m thick walls, the private collection belonging to the Boros family gathers together contemporary art masterpieces from the 1990s onward. The bunker’s many halls have accommodated artworks by Ai Weiwei, Awst & Walther, Dirk Bell, Cosima von Bonin, Marieta Chirulescu, Thea Djordjadze, Olafur Eliasson and many others.

Sifang Art Museum, Nanjing, China
Reminiscent of a see-through snake on stilts, this spectacular museum is located at the entrance of the Laoshan National Park near Nanjing, in China. Founded by real estate magnate Lu Jun, it has hosted contemporary artists from all over the world, including MadeIn Company, a collective of Chinese artists.

Museum of Innocence, Istanbul, Turkey
This museum was conceived by novelist and screenwriter Orhan Pamuk and takes its name, Museum of Innocence (Masumiyet Müzesi in Turkish) from one of his books. Financed with the money awarded to Pamuk in 2006 together with the Nobel prize, the museum is nothing but a display of object mentioned in the namesake novel. It should be visited after reading the book, to better appreciate the visual representation of the love story that developed between the protagonists.

Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al-Thani Museum, Qatar
This gigantic museum hosts 15,000 pieces from the personal collection of Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al-Thani, among which a fossilised dinosaur, islamic art and vintage cars. A sort of random selection, but that’s exactly what makes it worth visiting.