10 Things You Didn’t Know About Philip Niarchos

Although the name Philip Niarchos may not be familiar to everyone, his influence in the domains of art, philanthropy, and business is quite extraordinary. As the eldest son of the late Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos, Philip has spent much of his life cultivating a name for himself distinct from his father’s, most notably in the realm of art collection. Here we delve into ten things most likely you didn’t know about Philip Niarchos.

1. His Art Collection is One of the World’s Largest Private Collections

Philip Niarchos is a passionate collector of world-class art. His esteemed collection – focusing primarily on modern and contemporary masterworks – has been estimated to include over 1,000 individual pieces, making it one of the largest private art collections on the planet. It includes gems from noted artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol. It is rumoured that he is the owner of the most extensive private collection of works by Pablo Picasso.

Niarchos’ acumen regarding art goes well beyond simple appreciation. His understanding of particular artists’ lives, their inspirations, and the broader art movements they participated in helps him to make informed acquisitions and contribute meaningfully to discussions about art.

2. He Inherited the Majority of his Father’s Fortune

Philip Niarchos is not just an ardent art collector, but also a well-established businessman. In 1996, following the death of his father, Stavros Niarchos, Philip inherited the majority of the Niarchos’ vast fortune, his father’s art collection and his father’s shipping business. Philip is seen as the quietest of the Niarchos clan, often avoiding the spotlight, yet his influence cannot be underestimated, particularly in maritime and other economically crucial industries.

As with most businesspeople of his calibre, Niarchos prefers to keep his business dealings relatively private and works hard to ensure that the Niarchos Group remains an influential and respected entity in the shipping industry. Despite these efforts, Philip’s business dealings have occasionally been the subject of media attention.

3. He is Active in Philanthropy

In addition to his other roles, Philip Niarchos is also known for his significant philanthropic efforts. He contributes to several charitable organizations both locally in Greece and internationally. His areas of focus include education, arts, health, and social welfare, where he has financed numerous initiatives aimed at improving the welfare of vulnerable groups.

Among others, one of the most noted beneficiaries of his philanthropy is the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, a global philanthropic organization focusing on the fields of arts and culture, education, health, and social welfare. The foundation, established in the memory of his late father, is one of the primary philanthropic organizations in Greece and has made significant contributions globally.

4. Niarchos is Married to Victoria Guinness, Heiress of the Guinness Fortune

Many may not know that Philip Niarchos is also connected to another prominent family by marriage. He is married to Victoria Guinness, an heiress of the well-known Guinness beer fortune. Victoria Guinness, who is also known as “Vicky”, is a known figure in the art scene, particularly in the realm of bookbinding.

The couple has four children together. Despite their family’s fame and fortunes, the Niarchos family is said to lead a relatively private and secluded life.

5. He Lives In a Converted Monastery in Switzerland

Famous for his love of art and leading a private life, Niarchos opted for a unique residence place, a converted monastery located in Saint Moritz, Switzerland. The inspiring tranquility of the scenic location complements each piece’s unique beauty in his vast art collection.

Each room of the converted monastery is adorned with masterpieces from his collection, creating a small ‘museum’ of sorts where masterpieces by world-renowned artists share space with family photos and heirlooms.

6. His Collection Contains the Most Expensive Painting Ever Sold

Niarchos is the owner of one of Vincent van Gogh’s most famous masterpieces, ‘The Portrait of Dr. Gachet’. The painting, which depicts Vincent van Gogh’s doctor, was sold to Niarchos in 1990 by Ryoei Saito for the whopping sum of $82.5 million, thus making it the most expensive painting ever sold at an auction at that time.

Today, adjusted for inflation, the purchase price of the painting exceeds $150 million, staking claim as one of the most expensive art piece transactions in modern times. The painting is still in Niarchos’ possession and is carefully kept away from public exhibitions due to its value.

7. He Supports Emerging Artists

Niarchos isn’t merely focused on collecting prominent works by famous artists; he also dedicates time and resources to supporting emerging artists. He has purchased many artworks by young talents who have since become successful, establishing the importance of their early support and patronage. Niarchos’ vast, diverse collection offers an intriguing glimpse into the contemporary art scene as well as the well-established classics.

His steady involvement with artists at the commencement of their careers contributes significantly to these artists’ success and helps encourage the next generation of art creators. By doing so, Niarchos has played a big part in maintaining the vibrancy and evolution of the global art scene.

8. He Bought a Picasso Painting for $95.2 million in 2006

Propelled by his love for Picasso and his enthusiastic art collecting, Niarchos shattered another record when he bought Picasso’s ‘Dora Maar au Chat’ for an incredible $95.2 million in 2006. At that time, the painting was one of the most expensive paintings ever sold at an auction.

Painted in 1941 during Picasso’s turbulent relationship with Dora Maar, the Art Deco-style portrait is considered one of Picasso’s most emotionally charged works. This acquisition further bolstered Niarchos’ extraordinary art collection and his reputation as an exceptional art collector.

9. His Father Was Once the Richest Man in the World

Philip Niarchos’ status as one of the richest men in the world comes as no surprise, given his lineage. His father, Stavros Niarchos, was one of the world’s wealthiest men and was once declared as the richest man in the world. Having founded one of the world’s largest shipping businesses, his wealth at the time of his death in 1996 was estimated to be approximately $22.3 billion.

After Stavros’ death, the wealth, along with the reigns of the vast Niarchos business empire and an extensive art collection, was largely inherited by Philip. Philip has worked to expand his father’s fortune while maintaining the family’s reputation in art and philanthropy.

10. His Brother is Connected to Princess Diana

As though the Niarchos family’s connections couldn’t get any more impressive, Philip Niarchos’ brother, Dodi Al-Fayed, was the last love interest of the late Princess Diana. The two tragic figures’ relationship was cut short when they died in a car accident in Paris in 1997.

The romance, albeit brief, made headlines worldwide and added to the mystique of the Niarchos family, making them an integral part of international high society’s narrative.

Through his art collection, business pursuits, and philanthropic efforts, Philip Niarchos is a fascinating figure. A man of many passions, one can only imagine what intriguing facts and stories are yet to be discovered about him.

For more information about Philip Niarchos:
Philip Niarchos – Wikipedia
Stavros Niarchos, 86, Shipping Magnate – New York Times