New report profiles elusive art collector

Mr. Resch’s 73-page report is full of catchy conclusions and omissions.

The average age of a collector is 59; men represent 71% of the sample. The United States has 25% of the world’s contemporary art collectors, by far the largest proportion, followed by Germany with 8% and Britain and China with 7% each. Switzerland, home to Art Basel, the world’s largest contemporary art fair, does not feature in the report’s top 10 collecting countries, nor does Russia.

“Switzerland has a huge collector base, but it’s not visible,” Resch said. “These guys just don’t talk about their collections.” Rich Russians are also tight-lipped on this topic, at least to compilers of art market reports.

According to Larry’s List, the number of private museums of contemporary art is increasing. They are now 350 in 46 countries. The United States leads with 48; Germany has 45; and China 17, including six in Beijing alone.

Tax breaks in the United States and Germany, and some other countries, have encouraged collectors to build publicly accessible museums, although notions of accessibility can vary wildly. Probably the grandest example of 2015 is The Broad, a 120,000-square-foot museum in Los Angeles that will feature billionaire Eli Broad’s private collection. It’s slated to open in the fall.

But collectors are also involved in museums, private or public, because they want the chance to buy the most desirable new art. They are aware that commercial galleries give preferential status to collectors who exhibit works to the public.

“That’s one of the reasons why I’m with my museum,” said François Odermatt, a contemporary art collector in Montreal, where he is one of the partners and a major exhibitor of the Arsenal public gallery. “It gave me great access to amazing works from dealers.”

Norma D. Ross