The publication of The Sunday Times Rich List, the annual rankings of the wealthiest people based in Britain, has revealed the shifting fortunes of many of the nation's key art world figures. All figures are estimated by a team of researchers and journalists who rank the 250 richest people according to a “calculation of their overall wealth”.
The highest ranking art world individual is Leonard Blavatnik in at number four, with an estimated fortune of £20bn derived from investment, music and media (Ukraine-born Blavatnik occupied the top slot last year but has since lost £3bn). Blavatnik has sponsored a plethora of art projects and institutions in the UK including the Courtauld Gallery in London (£10m; Blavatnik Fine Rooms) and Tate Modern’s extension (more than £50m; Blavatnik Building) which opened in 2016. According to The Sunday Times, “anyone who describes him as an ‘oligarch’ can expect a letter from his lawyers.”
The Rich List authors highlight meanwhile how Russian collector Roman Abramovich’s wealth fell from £12bn last year to £6bn in 2022 after a raft of sanctions. “Despite having lived here [London] for some years, he still has money tied up in London assets,” says the report. In 2008, Abramovich spent $120m in a week on works by Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud at auctions in New York.
Abramovich was an early inclusion in the list of individuals sanctioned by the UK government—whose ruling Conservative party has reputedly received £1.9m from donors with questionable connections to Russia—following the invasion of Ukraine. Abramovich also features on the EU’s sanctions list; his assets have been frozen.
Other high-profile art world entries on the list include the collectors Poju and Anita Zabludowicz at number 119 (£1.5bn from property and hotels; unchanged from last year). According to The Sunday Times, “25 artists last year ‘deauthored’ their artworks in the Zabludowiczs’ 5,000-piece collection because of the London couple’s links with Israel.” The group of 25 artists and cultural workers, known as Boycott/Divest Zabludowicz, cited the Zabludowicz Collection’s links to the Israeli state as the motive for “disaffiliating” themselves from their works.
Poju and Anita Zabludowicz subsequently issued a statement, saying: “The war between Israel and Hamas has broken our hearts once again. We passionately support a Two-State Solution that guarantees the rights of Palestinians and Israelis to live and work side-by-side in peace.” The couple’s company, Tamares, sold its British Israel Property operation for $700m in 2011, according to The Sunday Times.
François-Henri Pinault, the son of the French collector François Pinault—the owner of Christie’s and the luxury goods group Kering—features at number seven in the list with a fortune of £7.1bn (£1.5bn less than last year). The art patron Elisabeth Murdoch, the founder of the philanthropic Freelands Foundation, is worth an estimated £1.2bn, putting her at number 149 (she took the 138th slot in 2021).
The artist Damien Hirst appeared on the 2020 Rich List with an estimated wealth of £315m at number 409 (previous rankings went up to 1,000; this was whittled down because this year, the 250 richest people in Britain now hold more wealth than the previous 1,000 ranked in the year 2017).
UPDATE (25 May): The image imformation regarding Anita Zabludowicz was updated to include correct information.