Philanthropic actions, an opportunity to build a Private Art Collection

private art collection philanthropic

A New York City Apartment: David Mann Design

Introduction to Private Art Collectors

The world’s history is rich in art patrons who created museums to spread Art to the world and bring visibility to artists. However, private collectors have increased in number for centuries for many reasons, and one of them is philanthropic.

North America and Europe detain the greatest numbers of private collectors.

Art collectors are a very special, relatively homogeneous subgroup within the general population, they are generally male, middle-aged and well educated. Their average age is 59. Most of them live in childless relationships and the vast majority collect contemporary art (and impressionist art coming in second). The more collectable items are paintings, work on paper and sculptures.

Some collectors even build private museums in order to display their private collection; overall there are 350 private museums that are located in 46 different countries.


There are so many motives to collecting Art. It is often an expression of the collector’s identity and gives pride and satisfaction. It can also serve a purpose of preservation of memory, a realization of self-worth, achievement of financial wealth. Art collectors also want to gain prestige, social advantages, and distinction.

Veblen (1934) says Art is called conspicuous consumption because by consuming Art, people distinguish themselves from others and work on their image. Besides, collectors have tax relief and tax privileges through presenting their collections to the public.

According to AXA ART, there are three types of collectors in terms of motivations:

private art collection philanthropic 2

Members’ Club, Bars & Restaurants | Soho House Chicago

private art collection philanthropic 3

Ellerman House Art Gallery – Jane Visser Architects

1/ The Art Aficionados 

These people collect Art for their own sake, with a high level of knowledge and connoisseurship. They want to express their passion, express their personality, develop contacts and friendships through Art. They consider the reduced profitability of investing in Art is more than offset by the aesthetic pleasure they derive from the possession of artworks.

2/ The Traditionalists 

This second group collects mostly to continue a family tradition. They often prefer paintings and Contemporary Art. They show a particular interest in kind of traditional collectables such as furniture, jewelry, clocks, watches, ceramics, porcelain, and wine. They are discreet collectors and have often been collecting for more than 20 years.

3/ The Investors 

These Art Collectors buy Art as a status symbol and a commercial investment with a lot of financial expectations. They are energetic in the Art scene and engaging in the Art circle, and often contributing to public museums. They want to display status in the process of immortalizing their name.

Art Philanthropy’s Rise

The Art World, from a niche lifestyle sector into a nearly 600$ billion global market was accompanied by a huge growth of art philanthropy. This one is broadly defined as a private action which will benefit the public and can also take various guises. Indeed, 37% of Art Collectors are involved in public art institutions.

“I am a ‘Friend’ of lots of institutions, I sit on the Court of a London University, I am on the advisory board of a wonderful quarterly magazine, and am a member of the Art Scholars Livery”.

Many collectors make frequent donations of artworks, collections and financial resources to public institutions. In 2014 in the U.S.A, donors contributed $358.4 billion to charitable organizations or public institutions.

The term of “venture philanthropy” has emerged with the rise of some entrepreneurs applying business acumen, passion but also technology to art in the fulfillment of philanthropic goals. Venture philanthropy features four main characteristics, which are high levels of engagement, tailored financing, multi-year support and performance-based management with a strong focus on measuring outcomes and impact.