Before Michael Bloomberg Spent a Fortune Running for President, He Spent a Fortune on Art. Here’s Wh
The billionaire presidential candidate is an active arts philanthropist. But what has he purchased for his 12 private homes?
Mayor Mike Bloomberg at the National Arts Awards at Cipriani 42nd St., October 7, 2002. © Patrick McMullan.
For decades, Michael Bloomberg has maintained his status as one of the biggest patrons of the arts alive. Not only has he given widely to museums in New York, the city he ruled over as mayor for three terms, but his second home of London has also been the beneficiary of major gifts.
Since leaving office, Bloomberg has spent a fair amount of time in the world’s second-biggest art-market city, where he is the chairman of the board of the Serpentine Galleries, the Hyde Park institution overseen by artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist.
And while he’s very public about his gifts to institutions—and is a regular on the museum gala circuit—he is completely tight-lipped about what’s in his private collection. Bloomberg’s vast fortune—currently estimated at $59.6 billion—has allowed him to collect art at will, but he’s never been as public about his trophy hunting.
We know the names of artists who Bloomberg has greenlighted for public art projects in New York, such as Christo, whose Gates he successfully fought to bring to Central Park in 2005, allowing the artist to drape 23 miles of fabric through the middle of Manhattan.
He also supported Ugo Rondinone’s stone statues in Rockefeller Center in 2012, and launched a Public Art Challenge in 2018 that would award millions of dollars to different cities for arts initiatives. Art permeates his media company as well: When the massive new London Bloomberg LP building opened in 2018, it included newly commissioned work by Cristina Iglesias, Olafur Eliasson, and Pae White.
But whose work does he hang on his own walls? Now that the former New York mayor is running for president and poised to win a significant number of delegates—and, though a long shot, could plausibly capture the nomination—we asked advisors, dealers, and others in the know what exactly is hanging up in Bloomberg’s houses… all 12 of them, in Manhattan, Westchester County, Vail, Florida, London, the Hamptons, and Bermuda.
A Social Animal
By the mid-1990s, Bloomberg was primarily known as the founder of Bloomberg LP, the multi-billion-dollar financial services company that sent Wall Street traders need-to-know info to Bloomberg-branded computer terminals. He had yet to set up his philanthropic efforts, and though he collected art a little bit, rarely did he step out on the art scene. Things began to shift in 1997, when he began to involve himself in the art world on two sides of the Atlantic.
That summer, Bloomberg joined the board of the Met, and by the fall, he was being courted to underwrite “The Warhol Look: Glamor, Style, Fashion,” a show that was set to open in November at the Whitney Museum of American Art, then on the Upper East Side, near his apartment. (The original backer, Gianni Versace, was gunned down in front of his South Beach home months earlier.) Bloomberg agreed, though he admitted he would not usually be the first person approached to back a show of work by Andy Warhol—he didn’t own a single work of art by the artist at the time.
“We probably would not have had very much in common,” Bloomberg said of Warhol in an interview with the New York Observer in 1997. “A lot of Warhol’s stuff I’m not sure that I like.”
A few years later, he told the New York Times, “Would I prefer to have Jasper Johns and de Kooning and Warhol stuff all around? I don’t know. That says less to me.”
So what was he collecting in his pre-mayoral years? Sources have said that, for the most part, he was buying work by artists from the Hudson River School, which includes Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church, as well as 19th-and 20th-century paintings, and porcelain vases. In the same interview with the Times, he mentioned that he was into buying Old Masters and Italian painters but not “that medieval religious stuff that is so serious and so overdone.”