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From Picassos to NFTs, Sports Team Owners Have Been Scoring Major Artworks

Is an American football arena a good place to see art? It is if you’re in AT&T Stadium, thanks to Dallas Cowboys team owner and general manager Jerry Jones, just one of many team owners around the world who are also active art collectors. Jones displays in the stadium commissioned works by some of today’s most well-known contemporary artists, among them Doug Aitken, Anish Kapoor, Teresita Fernández, and Jenny Holzer, whose Truisms has been adapted to show on the 160-foot-wide Jumbotron. With an estimated net worth of $6.8 billion, Jones has the obligatory $250 million super-yacht, as well as a personal art collection that includes works by Picasso, Renoir, and Matisse.

Other tycoons in the sports world have long kept out of the public eye, like Coachella music festival owner Philip Anschutz. The entertainment magnate has shares in many an L.A. sports team; owner of the LA Galaxy football team and part-owner of the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, he recently sold his minority stake in the NBA Lakers. One of the country’s most reclusive billionaires, the octogenarian has a net worth of an estimated $11.7 billion, and a collection of some 600 art objects relating to the American West, from Frederic Remington and Thomas Eakins to Charles Marion Russell and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, has recently emerged as a behemoth in world of Pop culture–related memorabilia. In 2019 he paid $4 million at Christie’s for the Black Strat that once belonged to Pink Floyd lead guitarist David Gilmour. Heir to a heating and cooling industry fortune and having at one time struggled with addiction, Irsay also purchased an Alcoholics Anonymous founding manuscript dated 1939 at auction in 2018 for $2.4 million.

India’s richest woman, Nita Ambani, with a $20 billion fortune, is co-owner of the Indian Premier League Mumbai Indians cricket team and chair of the company that holds it, Football Sports Development. She has emerged in recent years as a major art world player, establishing the Reliance Foundation, named after her family’s oil and telecom conglomerate, to promote postwar Indian artists. Having supported the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York since 2016, she was named the first Indian honorary trustee of the museum in 2019.

And, of course, there are NFTs, which gained notoriety only this year. In June, Sotheby’s staged an auction of NFTs around the cult digital avatars known as “CryptoPunks.” The sale saw the price for one of the characters, Larva Labs’s CryptoPunk 7523 (2017), run up to a staggering $11.4 million. Israeli billionaire Shalom Meckenzie, a minority owner of the sports-betting operator DraftKings, placed the winning bid. Our very own Andrea Bonaceto is making a name for himself by being one of the pioneers of the NFT space. His artistic research is focusing on programmable art and the intersection between visual art, music and poetry. He also collaborated artistically with Sophia The Robot, the most advanced AI humanoid robot in the world. Andrea's artworks are collected by all of the biggest collectors in the space. Andrea is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and has been featured as Forbes Under 30 Italy 2019. Andrea's work has been covered by international media including The New York Times, Artnet, Reuters, BBC, CNN and Vanity Fair.


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