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In The Frame

Forbes’ Rich List includes art patrons and collectors

Bill Gates

There are some familiar faces on Forbes’s latest Rich List. Among the top ten—well eleven—of the world’s wealthiest people, a handful are involved in the arts:

#1 Bill Gates: With a staggering $79.2bn, Microsoft founder Bill Gates retains his position as the wealthiest person on the planet. Gates, who bought a notebook by Leonardo da Vinco, the Codex Leicester, for $30.8m in 1994, supports the arts in various ways: paintings by American artists such as Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer hang in the Gates’ private residence; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently launched a cultural initiative with artists including Vik Muniz to promote the use of vaccines, “The Art of Saving a Life” project; meanwhile, the Microsoft Corporate Collection includes more than 5,000 works of art.

#2 Carlos Slim: Mexican telecom billionaire Carlos Slim has an estimated fortune of $75.1bn. Slim, who is the largest stakeholder in the New York Times with an almost 17% share, founded the non-profit Museo Soumaya in Mexico City in 2011. It has more than 66,000 works of art dating from the 15th- to the 20th-centuries and was the 56th most visited museum in the world, according to The Art Newspaper’s 2013 attendance figure survey.

#5 Larry Ellison: The founder of tech company Oracle, Ellison is a collector of Japanese art: an exhibition drawn from his holdings went on show at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum in 2013. Ellison, who lived in Japan in the 1970s, is worth an estimated $54.3bn and is the fifth wealthiest person in the world.

#6 Charles and David Koch: The controversial Koch brothers tie for sixth place on the rich list, with $42.9bn. There were protests last year when the Metropolitan Museum unveiled the “David H. Koch Plaza” after the billionaire donated $65m to the institution. The ultra-conservative pair have been criticised for their political maneuvering.

#10 Liliane Bettencourt: The 92-year old L’Oreal heiress, who is the richest person in Europe with an estimated $40.1bn, made headlines in 2008 after it was reported that she had given almost $1bn in art and other gifts to a photographer and society figure François-Marie Banier—much to her daughter’s chagrin. Françoise Bettencourt Meyers went to court to prove her mother was unfit to manage the business, and was awarded guardianship of Liliane’s fortune in 2011. A separate trial of ten people accused of stealing hundreds of millions of euros from Bettencourt began in January 2015.

#11 Alice Walton: Heiress to the Wal-mart fortune, Alice Walton has an estimated $39.4bn in wealth. Her personal collection is valued at hundreds of millions, and she founded the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, which opened in 2011. Her sister-in-law Christy Walton ranks above her on the rich list, in eighth place with $41.7bn while her brother Jim Walton is ninth, with $406.bn

Published online 3 Mar 15

Published online

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