Former commodities trader Christian Levett has announced plans to convert his antiquities museum in the south of France into “the first museum in Europe dedicated to art by women artists”. According to a post on Instagram, Levett’s Mougins Museum of Classical Art will close at the end of this month and reopen with its new focus in June next year.
“Christian Levett, the founder and owner of the Mougins Museum of Classical Art, is to give the museum a complete facelift, closing it as a classical art museum on 31 August 2023, and reopening [it] as an exhibition museum in spring 2024, displaying rotating shows of Modern and contemporary art,” says a statement on the museum website.
The museum will be rebranded as the Femmes Artistes du Musée de Mougins.
In an Instagram post, Levett says works by artists drawn from his collection such as Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Howardena Pindell, Cecily Brown and Nancy Graves will go on show in the refurbished venue.
In an interview in the Financial Times in 2018, Levett estimated that he had made more than 3,000 purchases over 25 years, building initially a collection of classical antiquities—one of the largest in private hands—and contemporary art which includes works by artists such as Damien Hirst and Marc Quinn. According to his website, almost 250,000 people have visited his museum in Mougins since it opened in 2011.
According to the Sunday Times Rich List 2020, as of that year Levett was worth £222m. “The first picture that I bought in Paris was in 1995—a painting of a fire scene in Delft, created in the 1600s by a Dutch artist called Egbert van de Poele; I paid 100,000 French francs for it. It sort of went on from there,” Levett told
His collecting strategy changed during the pandemic, however. “During lockdown I started to build a female Abstract Expressionism collection. I researched artists of that period, even the lesser known ones. Many works, which have also been exhibited in the museums, were available on the market [via] auction houses [and] other collections, and I started to put them back together,” Levett told Lampoon magazine.
He hoovered up works by 20th-century women artists, subsequently loaning numerous paintings to the Whitechapel Gallery in London for its recent exhibition Action, Gesture, Paint: Women Artists and Global Abstraction 1940-1970, which is currently at the Fondation Vincent van Gogh in Arles (until 22 October).
Levett is also sponsoring an exhibition of works by the UK artists Flora Yukhnovich and Daniel Crews-Chubb at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (until 14 January 2024). Levett wrote on Instagram: “Incredibly happy for Daniel whose career we nurtured at [Vigo Gallery in London] when I was the financing partner there from 2012-2018.”
Levett also has a house in Florence, Italy, which, according to Lampoon magazine, comprises “two floors full of works of art, mainly by British or American painters. A characteristic aspect of this collection is that every painting in Levett’s Florentine home is by a female artist.”