Billionaire Broad Tops Art List; Storm Over Ming Sale

Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad is the world’s top art collector, according to a new database containing profiles of more than 3,000 wealthy buyers.

Broad, whose contemporary art museum in Los Angeles is scheduled to open next year, is ranked by the website Larry’s List, based in Hong Kong.

The site provides contact information about collectors in more than 70 countries and details of the specific artworks they’ve bought over the years. Names of artists can be entered into a search feature that lists who collects them. Individual collector profiles can be purchased for $9.50 each from the site, which goes live this week.

Artists can access the information for free, Larry’s List Ltd. said in an e-mail.

“There will be reluctance at the beginning,” Magnus Resch, the company’s founder, said in an interview. “We believe it will be a standard tool at some point. It’s cheap compared to other databases compiled from accessible sources.”

Resch, 29, said information about the collectors was compiled by 25 researchers using freely available media. The collectors themselves were not consulted, he said.

The database ranks collectors according to Internet presence, institutional engagement, art fair participation, communications platforms, and the physical visibility and scale of their collection.

According to these criteria, Eli and Edythe Broad are the world’s No. 1 art collectors, followed by Cyprus-born Dakis Joannou and the London-based couple, Anita and Poju Zabludowicz.

These rankings contrast with the 2013 ARTnews 200 assessment which has Helene and Bernard Arnault, Debra and Leon Black and the Broads occupying the top three spots.

An inaugural 60-page “Larry’s List Art Collector Report” will be published in the fall, said Resch.

Sale Anger

A U.K. council has become the latest local authority to provoke anger with plans to sell some of its artworks.

Chinese ceramics from a local museum in south London are estimated to raise more than HK$113 million ($15 million) when they’re auctioned in Hong Kong in November.

The 24 most valuable items from the Riesco Collection will be sold by the London Borough of Croydon at Christie’s International on Nov. 27, the London-based auction house said in an e-mailed statement on Sept. 13.

They’d been part of a permanent display in the council’s Croydon Clocktower museum of 230 works formerly owned by Raymond Riesco, a Surrey-based businessman, who died in 1964.

Government Cuts

Conservative-led Croydon is the latest cash-strapped U.K. local authority selling artworks to offset cuts from central government.

Cambridgeshire County Council sold an L.S. Lowry painting for 542,250 pounds ($696,280) at Christie’s, London, in May 2009 to fund youth services. Bonhams auctioned a John Everett Millais for 74,400 pounds on behalf of Bolton Council in July 2011.

Tower Hamlets provoked protest with its plan to sell a Henry Moore sculpture last year. Local governments in other countries have come under attack for art-sale proposals, such as in the bankrupt city of Detroit.

“It’s sad,” the London-based dealer John Berwald said in an interview. “We’ve lost important pieces from one of the top provincial collections. People won’t want to leave things to local museums if they think they’re going to be sold off.”

The Hong Kong entries include a Ming dynasty blue-and-white double-gourd “moonflask” vase estimated at HK$22 million to HK$30 million, and a pair of Kangxi polychrome enameled cups at HK$7 million to HK$10 million.

No Bequest

“There was no bequest,” David Mills, Croydon Council’s press officer, said in an interview. “We bought the collection in the 1960s and we are entitled to do what we want to do with it.”

The value of rare Chinese porcelain has soared in recent years, driven by China’s desire to buy back artifacts associated with its emperors. Prize items from the Riesco Collection were removed from public display a year ago owing to prohibitive insurance and security costs, Mills said.

“We have a code of ethics and what Croydon Council is doing is in clear contravention of a chunk of that,” Maurice Davies, head of policy and communications at the Museums Association, said in an interview. “We’re considering taking disciplinary action.”

If the pieces are sold, Arts Council England will assess Croydon Council’s accreditation status which allows it to attract cultural funding from institutions, the Arts Council said in an e-mail.

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