BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors

Makers and Believers

On Art History’s Most Famous Patrons

The idea of the artist as a gifted, but financially poor individual with a bohemian lifestyle, fully came into place in the twentieth century. As fascinating and seemingly independent this way of life appeared to be, becoming a recognized artist often involved a dependency on a so called patron – a person lending money and support.

And indeed, some artworks would have not come into existence or would not have survived without art patronage. Even entire art movements, that today seem so fundamental to art history, were first made socially acceptable by its supporting benefactors. A surprising but famous example is the Impressionist movement, which around the 1870s struggled to be accepted before it was recognized and promoted by entrepreneur and art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. Today, The National Gallery in London is dedicating an entire show to the man, who spotted the potential of artists such as Monet, Degas or Renoir and dedicated his life to creating a wider social appreciation for their works. On this account, the show is entitled ‘Inventing Impressionism’, displaying 85 works from the movement, with all but one being tied to Durand-Ruel’s endeavors.

In a recently published article on The Guardian’s website, author Rachel Cook delves deeper into the subject and role of the art patron and collector and highlights how 10 individuals from different decades have shaped and are in the midst of shaping art history.

One of the grand dames in this field was certainly Peggy Guggenheim (1898-1979). Throughout her life, she built up an extensive and impressive art collection, which is still publically accessible and attracts thousands of visitors to its location in Venice. Peggy Guggenheim was known for her active social life and emotional involvement with artists such as Max Ernst, whom she also assisted with his immigration to the United Stated, helping him to ship artworks that were considered as “degenerated” in Nazi Germany.

Also John Ruskin (1819-1900) is remembered as an art patron. Known as a social reformer, impressive critic and educator of art history in Oxford, he profoundly inspired the Arts and Crafts movement. Ruskin was a staunch advocate and friend of artist William Turner, whose works were a part of his family’s art collection. Today, he is considered one of Turner’s most important benefactors as well as a patron of the pre- Raphaelites.

The Rubell family is a contemporary example of how an artist trajectory can be influenced by the recognition of private collectors. The collectors are part of the ‘Miami Model’, implying that in Miami private collections are largely considered as public institution, with an educational agenda. Shortly after Donald and Mera Rubell married, they put aside money every week to buy works from young and upcoming artists. Today, their collection includes Keith Haring, Jeff Koons and Cindy Sherman. Over the years the Rubells have become fully aware of the fact that their market power can influence an artist’s career – even if they collect solely out of passion.

In her article, Rachel Cook picks up on further examples ranging from John Soane (1753-1837) to Charles Saatchi (b. 1943), giving an historical overview of the special connection between artists and their patrons that appears to be somewhat timeless.

Amended Image by deepwarren via Flickr; CC Licence Info

More Information on The Guardian Culture

Insiders (67)

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

Important Museums and Private Collections

by Christiane Meixner

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

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