Forbes looks at Jeffrey Gundlach’s art collection. The bond investor named his company after his Mondrian. And, if you read the story, you’ll learn how he helped police use Google to catch the thief who stole a number of paintings and other valuables from his home. Here we learn two things. First, Gundlach was the buyer of Warhol’s Lemon Marilyn in 2007, a signal sale in the history of the current art market. Second, we get a glimpse of the hedge fund boy’s club and its penchant for using art to bond:
As a boy growing up in Buffalo, New York, in the 1960s, Gundlach was quite literally dragged into an appreciation for art by his mother, who was always taking him to museums and galleries. After moving to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a rock star following college, he wound up as a successful bond trader and began to collect American landscape artists such as William Wendt and Guy Rose. “I needed something to put on the walls that was better than a poster. I liked the California art, pretty pictures, seascapes, mountainscapes, I bought a lot of them,” he says, admitting to acquiring at least 50 works by the early 2000s. “I thought modern art, abstract art and nonrepresentational art was the biggest scam going.”
Then, in May 2002, while on a business trip to London, Gundlach made an afternoon visit to the Tate and had what he considers his art awakening […] I found myself in the modern area thinking, ‘What is all this junk?’ I see in this corridor that this artsy-looking guy is sketching, and I wonder what he thinks is so interesting to sketch. So I walk over, and he is sketching this Mondrian (“Composition with Yellow, Blue and Red,” 1937-1942), and I look, and I think this is the greatest thing I have ever seen. I instantly got it.”
Indeed ever since that 2002 trip, Gundlach has been on a modern and contemporary art tear, amassing a collection that includes the works of not only Mondrian, Rauschenberg and Johns but also Franz Kline, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Richard Diebenkorn, Philip Guston, Willem de Kooning and Joseph Cornell, among others. He also has quite a few “specific objects” by minimalist Donald Judd, including examples of his “progressions” and “stacks,” which greet guests as they enter the home. In all, Gundlach has about 40 paintings and sculptures at his Los Angeles property, ranging from Warhol’s iconic 1962 “Lemon Marilyn” (for which he paid an estimated $28 million in 2007) and “Orange Car Crash” in his den to Marlene Dumas’ “Die Baba,” scowling at visitors in his living room.
“At the time, I thought real assets were a good thing to hedge with, and I thought that Baby Boomers would be attracted to art of their era–art of the 1950s and ’60s,” he says. “And it was relatively low-priced.”
But the investment rationale quickly gave way to a true passion for provocative postwar paintings. “When I give people art tours through my house, they can’t believe it,” says Gundlach of his penchant for pedagogy. “One day [hedge fund manager] Stevie Cohen wants to come over and look at my art collection. I happen to know a few pieces that he has that were made public. So I started talking to him, and he says, ‘I can’t believe I am talking to a guy who knows more about my art collection than I do.’ ”