The World’s Most Famous Collectors and Collections

Famous people and interesting collections tend to be a circle squared. Most famous people are (by definition) interesting and are usually wealthy. That wealth means they can finance anything that takes their fancy  – with the result that quite a few famous people have interesting collections. See. What we said. circle squared.

So we thought we’d take a look at three super famous collectors and their uber-collections.

First up – probably the most extensive collection of anything and everything amassed, anywhere in the world. Not by one famous person in one lifetime – but by a lineage of Royals – the Kings and Queens of England, The British Isles, United Kingdom and her erstwhile Empire – it’s The Royal Collection…

The Royal Collection is one of the largest, most extensive and important ‘pseudo-private’ collections in the world. It differs from most collections in that it includes just about anything deemed artistic or historically (in a Royal sense) important. There are of course ‘collections within the collection’ – from fine art to sculpture to armour to photographs and other historical artefacts. It’s hard to know where to begin with the Royal Collection, so we thought we’d start with this great family snap of the current patron HM Queen Elizabeth II. It’s a shot that could be any happy 2 year old from the 1920’s…

We blogged in October about the suits of armour being stored in a storage unit at our Camden branch. As you might expect – the Royal collection has a fair few suits of armours. Back in the day – when Knights were bold – it’s likely that armour was to a medieval gent like a car is to many chaps today. A symbol of style, that one has status. Some even had intricate custom paint jobs.

This suit was made for Henry VIII of 6 wives fame. Manufactured at the Royal workshops Greenwich (not all that far from our Southwark store) this suit is thought date to around 1539 when Henry married his 4th wife Anne of Cleves and may have been for celebration jousts. Here’s an earlier suit with an interesting fashionable accessory…

The Royal Workshops were created by Henry in 1517. He recruited master armorers from across Europe. In a way the coach builders of their day…

If the car is the modern equivalent of a suit of armour then Ralph Lauren’s exclusive collection of automotive legends has to be the pinnacle of automotive. Whilst other car enthusiast celebrities – such as Nick Mason and Jay Leno – may hold larger collections with one or two legendary cars in starring roles, Mr Lauren’s stable is the automotive who’s-who of the most desirable machinery. Several notable Ferrari’s, a Jaguar D type, a 1929 Bentley, two 1930s Alfa Romeos… Every car has a fascinating story to tell and all go well beyond the transcendence of engineering meeting art – which is almost certainly why Ralph Lauren coined his collection exhibitions: “L’Art de L’Automobile”

Naming the world’s most beautiful car is a very subjective thing – but one jewel in Ralph Lauren’s collection shines even brighter than the others. It’s his 1938 Bugatti Atlantic – one of only four ever built and of just two original cars remaining in existence. A third example has been rebuilt from a few parts after being virtually destroyed by a train in 1955 – hence is not regarded as completely authentic.

Ralph Lauren’s example is regarded as the most original and unmolested, although the other authentic Atlantic became the world’s most expensive car in 2010, when it sold at auction for between $30 & $40 million dollars.

The last record of the fourth example is a shipping note to Bugatti’s Bordeaux premises early in World War II. It hasn’t been seen since. Maybe it remains hidden away somewhere in storage ready to be uncovered… waiting to become the most significant ‘barn-find’ in history.

The Atlantic was an Art Deco masterpiece – part of a universally popular artistic style that spent the best part of two decades in the limelight. Not all Art receives that level of acclaim, popularity and acceptance. Fortunately there are people who want to push the boundaries and champion cutting edge.

Take art enthusiast Charles Saatchi, subject of our third and final collection. The Saatchi Gallery opened in 1985 to allow the public to see his collection. Since then it has championed and challenged across a range of emerging themes.

One of the most notable was the 1990s and the YBAs (or Young British Artists). Saatchi’s championing of notable names including Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Marc Quinn. Whilst some exhibits were clearly designed to shock, others are perhaps a bit more clever. Quinn’s self portrait (an ongoing project – now in it’s 4th incarnation) – is a cast sculpture of his own head – filled with  4.5 pints of his own blood – taken over a 5 years.

The 4th version was purchased by the National Portrait Gallery in 2006 and is now on display, whilst the first nearly defrosted in 2002 after workmen apparently unplugged a freezer while extending Saatchi’s Kitchen – definitely not the best example of ‘Self Storage’ if you’ll pardon the pun.

Admission is Free to the Saatchi Gallery and current exhibitions include Body Language (a scrutiny of the human form) and another called “New Order: British Art Today”, so perhaps the new wave of Young British Artists will be making an entrance or the established ones will be staging a comeback.

Of course, if you’ve got a collection that you need help storing (frozen blood heads excluded we’re afraid) then a self storage unit with us is a safe and secure place to keep it.

Oh, and if you happen to be in Bordeaux and find a 1930’s Bugatti in a shed, do let us know.

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