The 12 Biggest Art Collectors In Tech

Some billionaires choose to spend their money on huge mansions and swanky cars. Others use their disposable income in a less flashy way.

As tech entrepreneurs have seen their companies grow and become financially successful, many have turned to art collection as a pastime and form of self expression.

“An engineer will look at a photograph or video art in a way a banker couldn’t — we think in ones and zeros, we think in terms of screens,” tech entrepreneur and collector Trevor Traina said to the Wall Street Journal last year.

We’ve come up with a list of the biggest art aficionados in the tech world. These executives all have their own unique sensibilities — Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, for example, owns a huge collection of Japanese art, while Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer prefers quirky pop art like Jeff Koons’ balloon dogs.

Disclosure: Marc Andreessen is an investor in Business Insider.

With a collection that reportedly contains as many as 500 pieces, Oracle founder Larry Ellison is a big fan of Japanese art.

According to SF Gate, the Oracle billionaire first became interested in the art of Japan when he worked there in the 1970s, and he 'personally studies and approves every proposed acquisition.' Pieces from his collection were on display at San Francisco's Asian Art Museum last June.

Ellison's preference for the Eastern style is also apparent in his home in Woodside, Calif., which was modelled after a 16th-century Japanese emperor's residence. He reportedly rotates the artwork in his home every other week, in keeping with traditional Japanese practices.

Famed VC Marc Andreessen favours contemporary art.

Midcentury artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns are among the famed Silicon Valley investor's favourites, according to Businessweek.

Andreessen's wife, Laura Arrilaga-Andreessen, holds two degrees in art history and reportedly carries a lot of weight in the process of deciding what pieces they buy for their home.

The offices at Andreessen Horowitz are also filled with abstract art pieces, including Roy Lichtenstein's 'Reclining Nude, 1980.'

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer prefers 'happy art.'

Mayer is known for having a sophisticated sense of style, regularly wearing glamorous pieces by Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrara.

She also has a taste for quirky pop art -- according to Vogue's August 2013 profile on Mayer, the Yahoo executive has several balloon dog sculptures by Jeff Koons in her kitchen, in addition to works by Roy Lichtenstein. She also reportedly owns several glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly, which sell for an average of $US15,000 each.

Mayer serves on the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's board of trustees.

Legendary VC Jim Breyer has a long list of favourite artists.

Breyer, Facebook's first big investor, sits on the board of trustees at SFMOMA. In an interview with Forbes, Breyer shared a quote he heard from a fellow board member, which he used to compare collecting art to investing in startups.

''Of every ten artists I pick, nine of them will end up failing. But that one out of ten becomes the next Picasso.' That's the venture capital business! You're not going to get them all right,' Breyer said to Forbes. 'But if you stop taking chances, stop discovering, you're never going to figure out who the next Picasso or Gerhard Richter is.'

His LinkedIn profile lists 'modern and contemporary art' as an interest, with this long list of the artists he admires: 'Picasso and Picasso :-), Edward Hopper, Gerhard Richter, Henri Matisse, Diebenkorn, Murakami, Peter Doig, Edward Weston, Michael Kenna, Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock, Alfred Stieglitz, Ellsworth Kelly, De Kooning, Bresson, William Eggleston, Zhang Huan, Zhang Xiaogang,
Zeng Fanzhi, Mark Rothko, Pollack, Still, Guston, Kertesz, Warhol, Ruscha, Thiebaud, Hockney, Bruce Nauman, Pierre Bonnard, Bechtle, Jeff Wall, Matthew Barney, Jim Dine, Yue Minjun, Wolf Kahn, Frank Gehry, Henri Cartier Bresson.'

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has a collection rumoured to be worth hundreds of millions.

Among the Microsoft billionaire's collection are works by Monet, Rodin, Rothko, Damien Hirst, and Alexander Calder, Newsweek reports.

28 pieces from his collection were shown during an exhibit at the museum he founded in Seattle, Experience Music Project. Monet's 'Rouen Cathedral: Afternoon Effect,' a pointillist painting done by Seurat, and a Gauguin work worth $US40 million were among those on display. He also showed a Renoir painting that previously sold for $US13 million.

In 2009, Forbes reported that his art collection was valued at a staggering $US750 million.

Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang collects Chinese calligraphy.

Yang's first art purchase was a scroll by Dong Qichang, at an auction in the late 1990s. His collection now numbers more than 250 pieces, some of which were featured in an exhibit called 'Out of Character' at San Francisco's Asian Art Museum in 2012 and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art later this year.

'For me, there are many things that make a piece great. As I study a piece, I try to understand more about the artist. Was he young or old? Was he doing this at a friendly drinking session or an official engagement? That context helps,' Yang said to The Wall Street Journal. 'Art has to hit you on an emotional level, rather than just the analytical.'

Alison Pincus decorates her office with pieces she buys on One Kings Lane.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Pincus and her husband, Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus, were big contributors to San Francisco's Bay Lights public art project.

She decorates her office at One Kings Lane with pieces she buys from the site she helped found, including works by Grey Malin and John Derian.

Pincus serves on the board of San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum, where she's helped recruit other tech executives like friend David Krane, a partner at Google Ventures. She's also helping the museum to revamp the design of their online store.

Groupon CEO Eric Lefkofsky and his wife Liz are huge in the Chicago art scene.

Lefkofsky sits on the board of trustees at the Art Institute of Chicago, and the couple has lent out a number of their works for exhibits there and at other museums, including the Guggenheim in New York.

Liz is a full-time philanthropist and has helped several Chicago museums oversee record-breaking auctions, including one in 2010 that brought in $US2.8 million for the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt collects both traditional and contemporary art.

Named one of the top art collectors in the world by ARTnews in 2008, Schmidt has a wide-ranging taste.

When he was asked by Artsy which artists were his favourites, he responded, 'I have many. Cézanne, because to me, it all begins with him. I enjoy Rothko and, of course, Picasso, who really cannot be beat. He was a true master who obsessively created, had a staggering body of work with well-conceived pieces, and was working on ideas with his brushes, pens, and hands that dazzle us to this day. Of contemporary artists, I am very interested in Rudolf Stingel. His Palazzo Grassi show will prove to be historical.'

He also had some advice for aspiring collectors: 'Buy only what you love, what you know a bit about, and about which you are excited to learn more. Try to understand what is the basis of the beauty of the piece.'

Software pioneer Peter Norton has a legendary collection.

The creator of Norton AntiVirus has collected contemporary art for decades. He's given many of them away -- according to Bloomberg, he donated more than 1,000 pieces to 32 worldwide institutions in 2000.

Others he's sold in blockbuster auctions, including one in 2011 that brought in more than $US20 million.

'One of my ideals for an artwork is that there are thoughts and ideas behind it, but that the work nevertheless has so much visual content that it appeals to viewers who have no understanding of those ideas,' Norton said in a statement before the auction.

Entrepreneur Trevor Traina's San Francisco home is filled with art.

The entrepreneur, who's founded four different tech companies, is known for his extensive photography collection. He lent approximately 100 of his photos for an exhibit at San Francisco's de Young Museum in 2012.

The beautiful Pacific Heights home he shares with wife Alexis is reportedly packed wall-to-wall with originals from a long list of both established and up-and-coming artists: Hiroshi Sugimoto, John Baldessari, Jackie Nickerson, Joel Meyerowitz, Tina Barney, Daniel Lefcourt, Vik Muniz, and Keith Tyson, among others.

Bill Gates has an affinity for American painters.

Gates set what many believe to be an American art record when he bought Winslow Homer's 'Lost on the Grand Banks' for $US36 million in 1998, as reported by Businessweek. He's made some other big purchases, including Childe Hassam's $US20-million 'Room of Flowers' and George Bellows' $US27.5-million 'Polo Crowd.'

He also paid $US30.8 million for 'Codex Leicester,' a scientific journal handwritten and illustrated by Leonardo da Vinci.

Gates has moved away from art collecting in recent years and even caused some controversy when he criticised billionaires who donated to museums instead of more philanthropic causes.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.