Liliane Bettencourt, the L’Oreal heiress who swapped a portion of her controlling interest in the cosmetics company for a stake in Nestlé to be the richest woman in the world, died yesterday at 94. Six years ago there was talk of her creating a foundation for her art collection but surely there will be a concerted effort to sell some or all of the work on the open market.
Previous reports have described her owning masterworks by Matisse, Picasso, Fernand Léger and Ruhlmann furniture. She appeared in a French magazine in 2011 photographed in front of some of her art. And she was interviewed on French television in front of this Gericault painting (above) acquired at the YSL/Bergé sale in 2009 for €9m over a €6m high estimate.
Other close market watchers believe she owns a Fauve Derain, Soutine Choir Boy and a large ink Matisse. These are undoubtedly among a much larger collection that could rival or surpass the David Rockefeller or Yves St. Laurent-Pierre Bergé sales.
One must also factor in the reports that late in life she gave numerous gifts of art to François-Marie Banier.
Here’s how the New York Times describes the way she lived.
She lived in great opulence. Her principal home, an Art Moderne mansion behind cream walls and towering pines in Neuilly-sur-Seine, was filled with antique treasures and paintings by Monet, Matisse, Picasso and Mondrian. She owned properties in many countries, yachts in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, and an island in the Seychelles.
Liliane Bettencourt, L’Oréal Heiress Vexed by Swindling Case, Is Dead at 94 (The New York Times)