Billionaire Julian Robertson’s $190M Art Collection Is Finally Unveiled In Auckland

The late hedge fund manager bequeathed his collection to a New Zealand museum more than a decade ago.

People wander around gallery room
The Robertson Gift: Paths through Modernity, installation view, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2024. Photo: David St George

In the late 1970s, Julian Robertson decided to take a year off from investing and moved his family to New Zealand in an attempt to write the great American novel. While his literary ambitions never came to fruition, the country made a lasting impression on the late hedge fund investor, who in 2009 bequeathed the majority of his art collection to a museum in Auckland.

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Now, two years after Robertson’s death at age 90, his works have settled into their new home at the Auckland Art Gallery and are on display in “The Robertson Gift: Paths through Modernity,” which opened last month. Valued at $190 million in 2022, the 15-piece collection contains pieces from major European artists ranging from Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali to Paul Cezanne and Paul Gauguin. “Patronage of this scale is unprecedented, and the collection of modern masterpieces is unique,” said Kirsten Lacy, the gallery’s director, in a statement.

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Known as the “Wizard of Wall Street,” Robertson was a pioneering figure in the world of hedge funds and short selling. He had an estimated net worth of $4.8 billion at the time of his death, according to Forbes. After closing his hedge fund Tiger Management in 2000, he continued to invest in emerging hedge funds known as “Tiger seeds” and support those run by former employees referred to as “Tiger cubs.”

Black and white photograph of dressed-up couple
Josie and Julian Robertson. Photo: Blanche Williamson

Robertson also remained actively involved in business pursuits over in New Zealand. Robertson and his wife Josie, who died in 2010, split their lives between the country and New York, going on to establish three major resorts across New Zealand’s Northland, Hawke’s Bay and Queenstown. Robertson was even appointed an honorary knight by the nation in 2010.

A transformative donation

The couple simultaneously were building up a vast art collection, one filled with masterpieces like Picasso’s 1938 Femme à la résille and Gauguin’s 1884 Cow in Meadow, Rouen. They occasionally lent out works to museums like Auckland Art Gallery, which exhibited more than a dozen of their pieces in 2006. The positive response to the show, which urged children to draw their own versions of the couple’s works, was overwhelming and inspired the Robertsons to bequeath the majority of their collection to the museum. “You fall in love with these pictures a little bit and you want to be sure they will be left with somebody who loves them and that [exhibition] made us realize they would be loved,” Robertson told The New Zealand Herald at the time.

Chris Saines, then the director of the museum, subsequently selected an assortment of 15 works for the gallery that spanned movements like impressionism, fauvism, cubism, surrealism and post-war abstraction. These pieces are the core of Auckland Art Gallery’s “The Robertson Gift: Paths through Modernity,” which also features more than thirty loans, recent acquisitions or works from the museum’s permanent collection.

Two oil paintings hanging on white gallery wall
Pablo Picasso’s Mère aux enfants a l’orange and Femme à la résille on display in The Robertson Gift: Paths through Modernity at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2024. Photo: David St George

At the time of the Robertsons’ bequeath, it was the largest gift ever made to an art museum in Australasia. The couple’s decision to donate their collection to a smaller institution was a purposeful one. “A lot of the large cities, if you give your art—unless it’s just perfect to the museum—it resides in some underground vault underneath the city for the rest of its life,” said Robertson in a 2013 interview with the nonprofit Bridgespan Group. “It’s been probably the most appreciated gift we’ve ever given.”

Auckland Art Gallery would not have been able to obtain such a selection of paintings and drawings without the couple’s vision, according to Lacy. The impact of their donation was monumental not just for the museum but also for New Zealand. “The Robertson’s gift is unquestionably the most transformative bequest of international art to the country in the past century,” she said.

The Robertson Gift: Paths through Modernity” is on view through January of 2026.

Billionaire Julian Robertson’s $190M Art Collection Is Finally Unveiled In Auckland