Born: 1939
Place of Birth: Jerusalem, Israel
Residence: New York, NY

JOSE MUGRABI

Jose Mugrabi, the Colombian-Jewish cloth baron and art collector, is part of a Manhattan family of art dealers known for their influential moves in the Warhol niche. Beyond the pop art, his vast collection includes works from the Impressionists to the very contemporary.

Jose’s sons Alberto and David, who are 38 and 37, respectively, have been attending auctions with their father since their teenage years. It’s often been said that it is rare to see one of the Mugrabi men without the other two. As Jose remains interested primarily in the Pop movement, his sons have been saddled with the task of seeking out younger artists for the family’s collection, such as the Hirst and Koons pieces it includes.

Jose’s interest in collecting began 1982, when Jeffrey Deitch, then an art consultant at Citibank, talked him into purchasing a Renoir landscape for $121,000 as an investment; he gained velocity as a collector very quickly. Friend and gallery owner Francis Naumann said of the Mugrabis recently, “They’re so invested, they’re like the casino, not the gambler.” And Alberto seems to agree: “We’re market makers. You can’t have an impact buying one or two pictures per artist. We’re not buying art like Ron Lauder — just to put it on a wall. We want inventory. It gives you staying power.” The family estimates that their collection includes over 3,000 works; it is believed to be one of the largest and most valuable private collections in the world. Of those 3,000, 800 are Warhols. (Mugrabi made headlines in November 2010 when Philips sold Warhol’s “Men In Her Life” at auction for $63.3 million.)

The collection also includes works by Renoir, Picasso, Rodin, Ernst, Daumier, Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, and about 100 each by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Tom Wesselmann and George Condo. At any time, over 90 percent of the collection resides in two warehouses, one in Newark and the other near Geneva.

Image by Tina Barney via The New York Times

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