Art Collector Christian Levett to Open Europe’s First Museum of Female Artists

Christian Levett is planning on radically rebranding his Mougins Museum of Classical Art.

Former hedge fund manager Christian Levett has long been an impassioned arts patron, having at times described his collecting habits as “manic” or “compulsive.” But in recent years, the museum owner’s focus on antiquities, armor and classically inspired works has undergone a drastic shift, with Levett instead turned towards the work of female Abstract Expressionists.

Exterior shot of museum building with green shutters surrounded by trees and small brick fence
The MACM will close for renovations as it undergoes its next evolution. Pmk58, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Now, this transformation will be paralleled by Levett’s Mougins Museum of Classical Art (MACM), which first opened in 2011 in Southern France. Long showcasing Egyptian, Greek and Roman material, the institution will by June 2024 turn into Femmes Artistes du Musee de Mougins (FAMM), becoming the first museum in Europe dedicated to work by female artists, as announced by Levett today (August 16). Displaying only artwork created by women, the institution’s collection will include renowned artists such as Tracey Emin, Carrie Mae Weems, Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, Elaine de Kooning and Cecily Brown, among others.

MACM will shut its doors by September to undergo a “complete facelift” as it prepares to host the new collection, according to a statement on the museum’s website. “Creating this museum and sharing it with the public has been an incredibly exciting experience for me as a collector,” said Levett in a statement, adding that “as my collecting and research interests matured over the years, I believe that it is now time for the museum to evolve as well.”

Amassing around 250,000 visitors throughout the past 12 years, MACM currently holds a juxtaposition of antiquities with a collection of classically inspired works by artists like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali and Damien Hirst, alongside the world’s largest private collection of ancient arts and armor. Located in the French rural village of Mougins, the last home of Picasso, the museum has loaned works from its 800-piece collection to global institutions like the Art Institute of Chicago, J. Paul Getty Museum, British Museum and Musee National Marc Chagall over the years. “I didn’t set out with the idea of starting a museum—it just came about because I’d collected far more art, antiquities and ancient armor than I could ever display at home,” said Levett in a 2020 London Times article which listed the art collector’s net worth at 222 million euros ($241 million).

Who is Christian Levett?

Levett’s passion for art stems back to 1995, when he began walking off hangovers in the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay and Picasso Museum while working at the Paris office of New Jersey-based hedge fund Commodities Corporation. After he acquired his first painting, a 17th-century work by Dutch artist Egbert van der Poel, there was no turning back. By 2016, after a career in commodities trading with positions at American International Group Inc, Goldman Sachs, Moore Capital Management, and the founding of his own hedge fund Clive Capital, Levett retired to become a full-time collector.

As his interest in antiquities began to wane over the years, in part due to the difficulties of locating solid provenances for ancient works, Levett shifted towards 20th and 21st century works. He began focusing extensively on post-war and abstract pieces by both male and female artists, until his interest in the latter was peaked by Mary Gabriel’s 2017 book Ninth Street Women, which discusses female Abstract Expressionists like Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner and Helen Frankenthaler. The women were often overshadowed by their respective husbands: Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell.

“Women artists have been consistently overlooked throughout history, either through lack of opportunity in society, or for reasons in the last 60-70 years that are harder to explain,” Levett, who rapidly began to amass a collection of important female works, told Larry’s List in 2022. “It became apparent that if I bought them all and kept them together as a collection, we could create something of great importance and great interest to the public.”

Aside from his upcoming female-centric museum, the former commodity trader spends his time mixing philanthropy and the arts. Earlier this year, he donated a Damien Hirst painting to amfAR gala, which sold the portrait for 1.2 million euros ($1.3 million). A member of both the arms and armor committee at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the visitors board of the Ashmolean Museum, Levett has additionally sponsored exhibitions at a number of international arts institutions, funded archeological works in the U.K., Italy, Egypt and Spain, and contributed towards academic scholarships at Wolfson College and the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford.

Art Collector Christian Levett to Open Europe’s First Museum of Female Artists