Mega billionaire Ken Griffin has moved his masterpieces to the beach

In 2015, the hedge fund Titan Kenneth C Griffin was the first person to spend half a billion dollars on art in a single transaction. David Geffen made a deal with Griffin to sell him Willem de Kooning’s boldly colored abstract masterpiece Exchange for $300 million and Jackson Pollocks Number 17A– the splatter painting life Magazine plastered into its pages in 1949 that made Jack the Dripper an American celebrity for $200 million.

Griffin could have scurried off with the masterpieces to one of his homes: a $238 million condo at 220 Central Park West and a $120 million mansion in London near Buckingham Palace, the most expensive apartment in Chicago history , getaways to Aspen and Hawaii, a big chunk of Miami’s Star Island. Instead, he had them displayed at the Art Institute of Chicago, placing 20th-century masterpieces alongside the museum’s iconic Impressionist and Post-Impressionist holdings.

“My art collection is almost entirely at the Art Institute of Chicago, it’s been there for years,” Griffin told David Rubenstein in March 2019 while appearing on his show peer-to-peer conversations. “For me, the fact that 700,000 or a million people a year will have a chance to see some of our culture’s greatest works of art that I am fortunate to have? I take great satisfaction in that.”

But at some point in recent years, those two works, the Pollock and the de Kooning, which were trading at the largest art auction of all time, were quietly removed from the museum. Her whereabouts were unknown.

On the Saturday after Art Basel, I rode a Brightline train from Miami to Palm Beach to attend openings and cocktail parties that make up New Wave Art Weekend. At one point I passed the Norton, the museum in West Palm Beach that houses the collection of Ralph Hubbard Norton, a 20th-century Chicago steel magnate who spent the summer in Florida. I’d seen the permanent collection twice in the past two years and thought I knew them fairly well, but after walking out of a gallery that had top-notch work by Georgia O’Keeffe, Stuart Davis and Edward Hopper, I saw work done in the For the year that Norton died, something I had assumed would have been well outside the museum’s acquisition budget: that of Mark Rothko #2 (Blue, Red and Green) (Yellow, Red, Blue on Blue) (1953), which exploded the artists’ market when it sold at Sotheby’s in 2000 for $11 million, or about $30 million when accounting for inflation.

As the wall text explained, it was at the Norton on loan from a private collection after being shown at the Art Institute of Chicago from October 2020 to June 2022. Also new was a top work by Roy Lichtenstein, Ohh… alright… (1964), which set an artist record when it sold at Christie’s for $42.6 million, supplied by steve wynn, who bought it from Steve Martin. It was also shown at the Art Institute of Chicago and, according to the wall text, belongs to a private collection. And across the hall at the Norton, thanks to a private collection, was an untitled Robert Ryman that was still hanging on the walls of Chicago’s great museum as recently as 2017.

Sources confirmed that all three were Griffin’s.

And then, around the corner and installed with little to no ceremony, two works were very much in a private collection, but a collection everyone knows: Exchange and number 17A, owned by Griffin.

Without much ado, at least $1 billion of Griffin’s art left the country’s second-largest encyclopedic institution and landed in Palm Beach. The Norton declined to comment on the new works in its collection, as did the Art Institute, but Griffin issued a statement to True Colors on Thursday.

“The Norton is one of the most important and beautiful museums in our country,” said Griffin. “I hope families, students and visitors from South Florida will enjoy and be inspired by these pieces and the thousands of artworks from around the world on display at the museum.”

Griffin has been very public about moving Citadel, his $50 billion-plus hedge fund, to Miami earlier this year. The Sunshine State’s prodigal son — Griffin is a Boca Raton native and a graduate of Boca Raton Community High School — returned after decades of support for Chicago, the city he’s lived in since graduating from Harvard in 1989, and immediately destroyed it with its own fund.

Leaving the Windy City, Griffin left the Illinois governor (and a fellow billionaire) with whom he had publicly quarreled over tax increases for the wealthy and an alleged rising crime rate (JB Pritzker); an ex-hedgie woman who, in a year-long divorce battle, claimed she was forced to sign a prenup that only made her $1 million a year (Anne Dias Griffin); and a gubernatorial candidate that Griffin funded with $50 million only to see him run over by a Trump-backed candidate in a Republican primary (Richard Irvin).

At the start of the pandemic, Griffin rented out the entire Four Seasons in Palm Beach, parked off-duty cops outside, and restricted entry to everyone but his employees. He made Citadel’s move official in August, taking a seat in a building owned by another billionaire art collector Vlad Doronin, until a new headquarters can be built. He’s spent weekends on Palm Beach, where he’s bought up sizable contiguous chunks of the southern portion of the island.

Griffin also went all-in Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, who became the first Republican in decades to carry the once hard-blue Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties in his successful re-election campaign in November. Griffin told Politico in a rare interview that his deep pockets would support the MAGA Dome’s heir if he ran for president in 2024. Griffin has already begun to exert his political influence in Florida and elsewhere. He donated more than $100 million to Republican candidates in 2022 and is vastly superior to his neighbor in Mar-a-Lago. Mega billionaire Ken Griffin has moved his masterpieces to the beach

Charles Jones

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