Jul 17
News
The French mega-collector Bernard Arnault is now the second-richest man in the world.
Bernard Arnault. Photo by Jérémy Barande / Ecole polytechnique Université Paris-Saclay.

Bernard Arnault. Photo by Jérémy Barande / Ecole polytechnique Université Paris-Saclay.

For the first time in years, Bill Gates has been knocked out of the top two perches on the list of the richest people on Earth. Shares of the luxury conglomerate LVMH rose to a record high on Tuesday, raising the net worth of its owner, the French magnate Bernard Arnault, to $107.6 billion—some $200 million more than Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft.

Arnault still trails Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who is worth $164 billion, according to Forbes—even after a costly divorce settlement that made his ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos, the fourth-richest woman on the planet. But Arnault has gained $39 billion in 2019 alone, the biggest gain among the world’s richest 500 people, according to Bloomberg.

Even more so than Bezos and Gates, Arnault is a passionate contemporary art collector, with a zeal for building up troves of work by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Damien Hirst, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Andy Warhol. He has personally arranged for artist collaborations with brands within the large umbrella of LVMH; Richard Prince, Takashi Murakami, and Jeff Koons have all designed handbags for Louis Vuitton.

In 2014, Arnault opened the Fondation Louis Vuitton, a sprawling museum in Paris designed by Frank Gehry that hosts exhibitions of work from his collection, as well as loans from fellow mega-collectors, and the world’s great museums. Last fall, it staged a remarkably comprehensive Basquiat survey that may be impossible to stage again in such a full scope.