Art world’s billionaires are slightly less rich

Forbes’ annual ranking of the world’s wealthiest people reveals that personal fortunes may have taken a hit, but the same names stay at the top

Forbes released its “rich list” on Wednesday, ranking the world’s wealthiest people, and as usual there are a number of names familiar to those in the art world. While many of these billionaires’ personal fortunes may have taken a hit because of a shaky global economy, the overall roll call has not changed much.

Among the top 20 billionaires who are involved in the arts, we see many of the same figures as last year: Bill Gates (#1, with a net worth of $75bn, down from $79.2bn in 2015), Carlos Slim Helu (#4, net worth: $50bn, down from $77.1bn), Larry Ellison (#7, net worth: $43.6bn, down from $54.3bn), Charles and David Koch (#9 & #10, net worth: $39.6bn, down from $42.9bn); Liliane Bettencourt (#11 net worth: $36.1bn, down from $40.1bn), Bernard Arnault (#14, net worth: $34bn, down from $37.2), and Alice Walton (#16, net worth: $32.3bn, up from $39.4bn).

One new addition to the top tier is Asia’s richest man, the Chinese real estate developer Wang Jianlin, who comes in at #18 with an estimated net worth of  $28.7bn, up from $24.2bn. Wang has been steadily building a collection of high-profile masterpieces. In November 2013, he bought Picasso’s Claude et Paloma for $28m at Christie’s sale of works from the collection of Jan Krugier and last May bought Monet’s Bassin aux nymphéas, les rosiers, for $20.1m at Sotheby’s New York Impressionist and Modern art auction.

Meanwhile, rising swiftly up the ranks is Leonid Mikhelson, who at #60 with a $14.4bn fortune made in gas and chemicals (up from $11.7bn), is now the richest Russian on Forbes list. His V-A-C Foundation has commissioned the Italian architect Renzo Piano to convert a former Moscow power plant into a contemporary art centre that is expected to open by 2019.