Over the past 10 years, a wave of fear has swept through the museum world as many leading works of art have slipped from their grasp and into the hands of billionaire private collectors, who it was feared would hoard these masterpieces away from the adoring eyes of the public. Although this suspicion was not completely unfounded, a small group of these mega-moneyed collectors have taken a different and very welcome approach by opening their own privately-funded museums, which has allowed avid art fans to once again enjoy access to the works that they thought had been hidden away forever.
This booming phenomenon of the private museum is still unsettling some of the older, state-funded institutions, but the opening of the Fondation Louis Vuitton proves that they’re here to stay. The Fondation itself is deservedly attracting a lot of attention but, here, we introduce three other museums that paved the way for its very establishment.
Fondation Beyeler, Basel
Works from the collection of art dealers Ernst Beyeler and Hilda Kunz were regularly exhibited from the late 1980s, appearing in prominent shows at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid in 1989 and Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin in 1993. However, it wasn’t until the pair commissioned architect Renzo Piano to build a museum in Basel in 1997 that the collection went on permanent public show and created a model for all privately-funded museums to come. The Fondation Beyeler includes work by Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol.
Yuz Museum, Shanghai
Budi Tek is the Chinese-Indonesian billionaire behind the successful Yuz Foundation and the two Yuz Museums, which are now open in Shanghai and Jakarta. The Shanghai Museum is based in the abandoned hangar of Longhua Airport on the West Bund and has an enormous 9,000 square metres of gallery space. As Tek is a huge champion of Chinese contemporary artists, the museum house work by some of the best including Zeng Fanzhi, Xu Bing, Huang Yongping and Li Hui.
Museo Soumaya, Mexico City
This institution houses a mind-blowing 66,000 works of art, all of which are from the private collection of museum founder Carlos Slim. As you would expect from a collection of such an enormous size, it’s far more varied than that of almost all other private museums and features everything from works of art from the 7th Century to pieces by surrealist artist Joan Miró to the world’s largest collection of sculptures by Rodin outside of France.
And the new kid on the block:
Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris
Since it opened earlier this week, the Frank Gehry-designed building housing the Fondation Louis Vuitton has awed critics with its swooping glass canopy that resembles the billowing sails of a ship. The opening of such a grand structure required a suitably impressive exhibition to accompany it, which Fondation founder Bernard Arnault achieved by gathering some of the most talked-about pieces from his private collection together in the brand-new galleries. The museum will only be considered private until 2062, though, as then the building – but not the art – will be given to the city of Paris.