The 10 Best Private Museums Worldwide


With the news of Walmart heiress Alice Walton preparing to open her massive Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas in November and California’s billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad set to build The Broad, a stunning Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed museum that will open in Los Angeles in 2013, we thought it was time to take a look a how wealthy art collectors are promoting their prizes. From the edgy Rubell Family Collection, housed in a former Drug Enforcement Agency storage site in Miami and Francois Pinault’s coveted contemporary art on view in historic buildings in Venice to a Sheikh’s rich collection of Arab art exhibited in a converted school in Qatar and Korean national treasures shown at Samsung’s masterfully designed Leeum in Seoul, here’s a glimpse at some of our favorite private museums around the world. If there are others that you think we should know about, please share.

Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Don and Mera Rubell started collecting contemporary art in the mid-60s, but they really put the Rubell Family Collection on the map when they re-purposed a massive Drug Enforcement Agency warehouse in Miami in 1993 and started showing the collection, which includes works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cindy Sherman, Keith Haring (shown here), Takashi Murakami, and hundreds more cutting-edge artists, to the public.

Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul

Established in 1965 by the Korean electronics giant, the Samsung Foundation of Culture ran a couple of gallery and museum spaces before opening Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, in Seoul in 2004. Consisting of three architectural triumphs designed by Rem Koolhaas, Mario Botta, and Jean Nouvel, the museum houses Korean national treasures from the past and international modern art from the 20th Century, while also exhibiting the art of the present and future.

Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris

Paris’ Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art, designed by Jean Nouvel and opened in 1994, houses a collection of international contemporary assembled by the luxury watchmaker and jewelry company since 1984. The collection includes more than 1000 works by some 300 artists, including Wim Delvoye, William Kentridge, Mathew Barney, Cai-Guo Qiang, and Ron Mueck, whose sculptural installation, In Bed, is featured here.

François Pinault Foundation, Venice

Head of Christie’s auction house and the stylish Gucci Group, French magnate François Pinault moved his vast contemporary art holdings to the Palazzo Grassi in Venice in 2005, and in 2009 added Punta della Dogana, a former Venetian customs house that was renovated by Japanese starchitect Tadao Ando. The François Pinault Foundation includes major artworks by Maurizio Cattelan and Rachel Whiteread (shown here at Punta della Dogana) as well as signature pieces by Piotr Uklanski, Takashi Murakami, Sigmar Polke, Cindy Sherman, and countless others.

DESTES Foundation for Contemporary Art, Athens

Founded in Geneva in 1983 but relocated to Athens, Greece in 1998, the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art is home to the Dakis Joannou Collection, which features work in-depth by Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Tauba Auerbach, assume vivid astro focus, Jim Drain, and lots of other artists that showed at Deitch Projects, including Jeff Koons, whose artsy paint job for Joannou’s yacht is seen here.

Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing

Founded by Belgian collectors Guy and Myriam Ullens in 2007, the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) was one of the first comprehensive non-profit art centers in China. Housed in a former munitions factory in the 798 district of Beijing, UCCA has exhibited holdings from the founders’ personal collection of Chinese contemporary art and featured temporary exhibitions by some of the best artists working in China today, including Huang Yong Ping, Zhang Huan, and Yan Pei Ming, whose 2009 installation is seen here.

Fondation Beyeler, Basel

The Fondation Beyeler grew out of an extensive collection of 20th-century art assembled by Swiss art dealer Ernst Beyeler and his wife Hildy. The foundation was started in 1982, and opened its permanent home in a spectacular building near Basel designed by starchitect Renzo Piano in 1997. Major artworks by Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Francis Bacon are juxtaposed with important objects of tribal art.

Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha

Based in Qatar, the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art was founded by Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani, who started collecting modern Arab art some 20 years ago. The Sheikh is listed as one of the top ten collectors of contemporary art in the world — buying more major works than anyone else last year. The museum, which opened in 2010 in a former school in Doha that was redesigned by French architect Jean-François Bodin, features art from the 1840s to the present from every Arab country.

Zabludowicz Collection, London

Founded in 1994 by the London-based billionaire couple Poju and Anita Zabludowicz, the Zabludowicz Collection features more than 2,000 contemporary artworks, with a focus on emerging art. Housed in a converted a chapel in northwest London (shown here) as well as a Times Square office building in New York, and a barn on Sarvisalo (an island near Helsinki in Finland), the collection includes art from 1970 to the present, with a list of artists that’s a virtual “Who’s Who” in contemporary art.

De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg

Housed in a former woolen mill in the southern Dutch city of Tilburg, the De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art is named after the attorney and businessman J.H. de Pont, whose estate provided for the establishment of a foundation to stimulate contemporary visual art in 1988. Benthem Crouwel Architects transformed the former factory into a skylight-lit exhibition space, which opened in 1992. The museum collects the work of international contemporary artists, including Marlene Dumas, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, Rineke Dijkstra, and Richard Long, whose installation is seen here. The De Pont Museum also runs Huis Marseille, a photography museum in an historical canal house in Amsterdam.