The Chocolate King, Picasso’s Buddy and Founder of the American Prado: Three World Collectors
Beyeler, Ludwig, and Phillips were the columbuses of contemporary art and collectors of the 19th century paintings. Their collections made splashes during their lifetime and continue to cause excitement today.
“Mister More” Peter LudwigGerman philanthropist and collector Peter Ludwig (1925—1996) managed to collect the world’s largest collection of Picasso, and along with them, works of antiquity and the Middle Ages, and Rococo, Africa, India and China. His track record does not end there: the chocolate magnate was awarded an honorary doctorate from several universities at once, the title of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, the Bulgarian Order of Saints Cyril and Methodius.
From childhood, Peter Ludwig was surrounded by outstanding works of art: his father was a collector. Unfortunately, during the Second World War, those paintings were buried under the ruins of his parents' house, which was hit by a bomb, but the worst thing was that Peter’s mother died tragically. Since then, he has sought refuge in the wilds of art to flee from the horrors of war that oppressed his memory.
Moreover, his future soul mate Irene also studied art history at the University of Mainz, and was a representative of a chocolate-maker family! Having defended his thesis on the work of Picasso, Peter headed the sweet business and increased his capital pretty much.
Having become a successful industrial confectioner, he gave all his hard earned money for paintings. And not only that: from his travels, alongwith paintings, he brought pre-Columbian coins, manuscripts, porcelain and faïence. By the way, Mr. Ludwig also collected Soviet art, came to the USSR more than 30 times, where he visited galleries and artists' studios. Needless to say, how Soviet representatives of unofficial art were waiting for his visits!
Ludwigs made the famous phrase, Art Belongs to the People, their motto. They didn’t leave the right to admire the paintings only to representatives of the elite. The couple presented 340 works of contemporary art to Cologne, and in the early 90s, they donated part of the collection to museums in Eastern Europe, including the Russian Museum.
Another side of the Ludwigs art network is the development of contemporary art. So, the condition for the gift of about 160 art objects to Vienna was the annual government contributions of 1.5 million marks to contemporary art over 15 years.
Ludwig was not afraid of scandals: for example, in honour of the opening of the Cologne museum, the Ludwigs gave interviews against the background of their sculptures by Hitler’s favourite sculptor, Arno Brecker, criticizing the ban on displaying Nazi art. They said that the main thing is objective aesthetics. It almost came to a meeting of the Bundestag.
The benefactor immortalized his name in 12 Museums Ludwig around the world, continuing the natural circulation of art objects, arranging their rotation around the world: art objects were given, exchanged, exhibited in Cologne, Aachen, Koblenz, Berlin, Oberhausen, Vienna, Budapest, St. Petersburg, Beijing, Havana, and these are only the Museums Ludwig (the latter ones were opened after his death by his wife, who continues the Foundation activities). A total of 33 museums are covered by the activities of the patron, where the objects of his collection are exhibited under different conditions.
Some of them are generous gifts, some are loaned. And, of course, Ludwig continued to buy up works of art, old and modern, all his life, for this reason New York gallerists nickname him Mister More.
Pioneer Collector Duncan PhillipsHe dreamed of founding the American Prado, collecting paintings by El Greco, Chardin, Manet, Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, Gauguin and Cézanne in his house. So, in 1921, his collection of paintings in Washington marked the opening of the first museum of contemporary art in the United States, the appearance of which was 8 years ahead of the his famous colleague, the MoMA.
Dunkan Phillips (1886—1966) devoted more than half a century to creating a first-class collection of two thousand works of modern art, and 1,400 of the paintings he acquired were painted by Americans living at that time.
Contrary to the conservative traditions of the time, the descendant of an industrialist went to study classical art at Yale University. The inheritance allowed him to devote his life entirely to his favourite business of acquiring paintings. He dedicated the collection to his brother who had deceased early.
At first, his home gallery consisted of two rooms of his mansion, and great artworks were side by side with floor lamps and sofas there. In 1921, the Duncan’s collection was already 230 canvases, and he decided to open the doors of his house to visitors. The only advisor to the newly minted owner of a private museum was his wife, artist Marjorie Phillips.
In search of new exhibits, he often visited Europe, although he bought what he liked himself, tried to systematize the works somehow. Thus, each painting by Van Gogh refers to a significant period in the artist’s life. Among the favourite canvases of the museum owner are The Ham by Paul Gauguin, The Road to Vétheuil by Claude Monet and The Mediterranean by Gustave Courbet: despite the fact that Phillips parted with many canvases, these were the constant part of the collection.
But the central painting of the museum is considered to be the recognized masterpiece of Auguste Renoir, Breakfast of the Rowers. To possess this painting, the gambling art investor had to wait for 12 years and pay 125 thousand francs. His words turned out to be prophetic: the fame of the picture is great, and people would travel thousands of kilometers to reach and see it.
Phillips was interested in the canvases of De Staël, Klee and Kandinsky. And soon the collector switched to the American modernists Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Milton Avery, and it came to Jackson Pollock, Willem De Kooning and Mark Rothko. At that, the mission was more than noble — in his diaries, Phillips wrote: "My main role is to find an independent artist and protect him from the tyranny of conformism".
As a result, Made in the USA is the most complete collection of works of American authors ever on display. From 2010 to 2013, the Washington Museum was closed for renovation, so these masterpieces were able to travel around the world.
And from 1 March to 31 August 2014, the exposition took place on the native land. The exhibition covered the period from 1850 to 1970: from the paintings of the artists who set the course for in American art, and to the representatives of abstract .
On a first-name basis with Picasso: Ernst Beyeler, the titan of the art marketKnight of the Order of Arts and Letters, Ph.D., environmentalist, Swiss Ernst Beyeler (1921—2010) was considered the world’s leading dealer of contemporary painting. 100 artworks by Klee, 340 works by Picasso, Cézanne, Matisse, Monet, Braque, Rothko. During his life, he gathered a collection of paintings, which is estimated at billions of francs! Thanks to him, the public was able to contemplate 250 exhibitions of cult modernist artists. He and his wife Hildy had no children, but they put their hearts into the exhibition centre in Riena, which annually receives thousands of visitors.
It all began in his student years (by the way, the native of Basel studied economics and art history) with the work of an antiquary’s henchman. Beyeler himself recalled that his initiation into the world of painting occurred when in 1934 he saw Picasso’s Guernica at an exhibition in Milan. After the death of the shop owner, in 1945, the business passed to young Beyeler. In the early 50s, he bought Kandinsky’s painting for $ 4.5 thousand… in installments! The patron returned to the work of the artist multiple times — he acquired hundreds of watercolours, sketches and paintings from Nina Kandinskaya. By the way, as it turned out, one of the purchased paintings by this author, Improvisation No. 10, was stolen by the Nazis and therefore served as a pretext for many years of litigation with the heirs of its original owner.
According to the collector himself, until the 50s, his finances did not allow him to purchase even Matisse. But Picasso, due to the large number of his paintings, was just affordable. Pablo Picasso in 1966 personally allowed him the honour of choosing 26 of his paintings.
Because to his close relationship with the great artist, the collector was fortunate enough to become the owner of the Guitar, a cubist sculpture by the artist. Although Beyeler initially planned to exchange it for a small landscape of Cézanne, but in a fit of generosity, Picasso refused the picture and presented the sculpture! For the artist’s centenary in 1981, Beyeler organized a large-scale retrospective in his gallery.
The collector actively collaborated with the Basel museum, resold paintings by artists whose art was recognized as degenerate and subject to destruction during Nazi Germany.
When purchasing another canvas, the art dealer relied on his inner flair and taste. And he never miscalculated, and eventually gained the status of a modern classic among collectors.