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Top 200 Collectors

Black-and-white portrait of Jay-Z.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation

Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter

East Hampton, New York; Los Angeles


Contemporary art


In 2017, the artist Alex Israel released a bizarre photoshoot featuring a chimpanzee named Eli traversing a sleek, minimalist home with a shallow pool and a sun-splashed exterior. That house was designed by Tadao Ando and owned by the collecting couple Bill and Maria Bell, stalwarts of the Top 200 Collectors list. Six years later, another collector would go on to buy the luxe abode: Shawn Carter, the rapper better known as Jay-Z, who, with his wife Beyoncé Knowles, put down $200 million, in what TMZ reported was the biggest-ever real-estate transaction for a home in California at the time.

Even before Jay-Z filled took over the Bells’ home, however, there had been plenty of reports of his aspirations as a collector.

In 2008, Jay-Z revealed in an interview with the BBC that Damien Hirst had created a painting inspired by the rapper’s lyrics and that he later bought that piece; the Mirror would later state that Jay-Z owned other works by Hirst. In 2010, Rolling Stone reported that Jay-Z had purchased a photograph by Laurie Simmons that featured a pistol with women’s legs. According to the publication, when Jay-Z hung it in his Tribeca penthouse apartment, Beyoncé then sent that photograph back and replaced it with another work by her. In 2012, Jay-Z and Beyoncé were spotted at Art Basel Miami Beach, where he reportedly bought a painting by Hebru Brantley for $20,000, according to HuffPo; five years later, the couple was seen together at Sadie Barnette’s Fort Ganesvoort show in New York.

At the very least, anyone with even a vague knowledge of Jay-Z’s music would know that his lyrics are peppered with references to art, from Jeff Koons’s “Balloon Dog” sculptures to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. In 2013, Jay-Z famously performed his song “Picasso Baby” live at Pace Gallery in New York; as soon as he finished it, he would start it all over again, looping the tune over and over for six hours straight. Curator Klaus Biesenbach, artist Marina Abramović, and critic Jerry Saltz were among those who made the trek for the performance.

And then there are the numerous times Jay-Z has appeared in the context of others’ art. In 2021, Beyoncé and Jay-Z posed before a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting for a widely seen Tiffany & Co. advertisement. Prior to the campaign, the Basquiat painting had long been held privately. That same year, Jay-Z commissioned the painter Derrick Adams to turn a portrait of the rapper into an NFT for a Sotheby’s sale. According to the auction house, the physical version of the Adams painting resides in Jay-Z’s personal holdings.