Philip Niarchos and the Most Significant Private Art Collection of the XX Century

Philip Niarchos, the eldest son of the Greek shipping magnate, has continued his father’s work, creating the biggest private art collection of the 20th century. Its estimated cost is $250 million, and his net worth is estimated at about $2.5 billion.

Philip got his passion for art from his parents, Stavros Niarchos and Eugenia Livanos. While many millionaires buy horse stables, helicopters, and dinners with the Stars for their adored children, Philip Niarchos with brothers grew up in their own museums. The fact is that Stavros Niarchos, who was in love with the art of the 20th century (especially post-war art), collected masterpieces in the family mansions in Athens, Paris, London, and St. Moritz so that Philip had access to the originals by Degas, Cezanne, El Greco, Gauguin, Goya, Monet, Renoir, and many others since childhood.

One of the main jewels of Philip Niarchos’ art collection is a self-portrait of Picasso, titled “Yo Picasso,” which was bought by Stavros Niarchos Sr. for $47.9 million at Sotheby’s auction in 1989. Philip, respecting his father’s passion for the so-called “selfies” of ingenious artists, bought self-portraits of Vincent van Gogh (approximately $90 million) and Jean-Michel Basquiat ($3.3 million) several years later. It’s interesting that the price paid for Basquiat’s painting was 5.5 times higher than the average cost for the artist’s works. By this purchase, Philip brought Basquiat to the list of the most expensive post-war artists of the 20th century.

Moreover, it is thought that the Niarchos family owns the largest private collection of works by Vincent van Gogh, including the well-known “Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear.” Despite the fact that they do not disclose the exact list of masterpieces in their collection, the Niarchos dynasty cannot be called greedy. For example, in the 90s, they gave five works by the Dutch artist to the Van Gogh Museum for the retrospective in honor of the centenary of the crazy genius’s death. Among the works were the mentioned self-portrait and no less famous “Portrait of Pere Tanguy.”

In 1994, Philip Niarchos’ art collection was complemented by Andy Warhol’s “Marilyn Red” bought at Christie’s auction for $3.63 million. In 2007, the collector spent $17 million for the “Green Burning Car I” (1963), setting a record price for the works by Warhol. Thus, the collection is constantly renewed. Outdated works are sold, and modern masterpieces that should increase in price are bought just in time. As a result, the collection and its owners become richer. It is also worth noting that the king of the shipbuilding business is officially a member of the Board of Trustees at the NYC Museum of Modern Art. Besides, Philip Niarchos is an International Council Member of London’s Tate Gallery. The collector often appears at the exhibition openings, but you won’t find him at the auction sales because all purchases and sales are carried out by professional curators. Philip Niarchos loves art, but he does not like too much attention to his private art collection.