Bernard Arnault is a name that carries weight in the world of luxury goods. The CEO of LVMH, he has made a name for himself in the fashion and retail industry, known for his taste and business acumen. Arnault began his career in the construction industry in the 1970s, but quickly transitioned to the world of luxury goods, where he would build a fashion empire that spans the globe.
LVMH (short for Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) is the world’s largest luxury goods conglomerate, with a portfolio that includes over 70 brands. Some of the most recognizable names under the LVMH umbrella include Louis Vuitton, Dior, Fendi, and Givenchy. The company was formed in 1987 through the merger of two well-known French companies: Moët et Chandon, a champagne manufacturer, and Hennessy, a cognac producer.
Arnault became involved with LVMH in the 1980s when he acquired a controlling stake in the company. Over the years, he has expanded the company’s holdings through strategic acquisitions, including the purchase of fashion house Christian Dior in 2017 for $13.1 billion. Today, LVMH is valued at over $300 billion and is a major player in the global luxury market.
While Arnault is known for his business acumen and the success of LVMH, he is also a prominent art collector. In 2014, he opened the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, a private museum that houses a permanent collection of works owned by LVMH and Arnault, as well as temporary exhibitions. The museum was designed by architect Frank Gehry and has become a major cultural destination in the city.
Arnault’s taste in art is reflected in his personal collection, which includes works by some of the most iconic artists of the 20th century, including Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Damien Hirst. In 2019, he donated a collection of major works to the Louvre in Paris, including pieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Maurizio Cattelan.
Arnault’s latest foray into the art world is a little different, however. Despite previously expressing doubts about the value of digital artwork as an investment, he has been revealed to have a private collection of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a form of digital asset that has been making waves in the art world in recent years. The news was revealed by Ian Rogers, the former chief digital officer at LVMH, during a recent podcast.
Rogers recounted that Arnault had shown him his OpenSea page of NFTs, revealing that the billionaire was a secret collector of the digital assets. The revelation is surprising given Arnault’s previous statements about NFTs. During an earnings call in January 2022, he warned that the tokens may represent a “bubble” that could soon burst. Despite this, Arnault seems to have changed his tune, adding NFTs to his collection alongside his blue-chip artwork.
Arnault’s children, Alexandre and Frederic, are also avid NFT collectors and have been leading the charge on the luxury conglomerate’s digital ventures. Alexandre, who is currently the executive vice president of product and communications at Tiffany & Co., turned his CryptoPunk NFT into a pendant made of sapphires, rubies, and diamonds. Tiffany then released “NFTiff,” which provides other CryptoPunk owners the opportunity to purchase jewelry inspired by their NFTs for around $50,000.
LVMH has also dabbled in digital tokens through its various companies, adding NFTs to a mobile game for Louis Vuitton and releasing Fendi accessories for a cryptocurrency wallet. While Arnault may have had doubts about the value of NFTs as investments in the past, his recent acquisition of a private collection of digital assets suggests that he is now more open-minded to the possibilities that NFTs offer.
As the world’s richest person with a net worth of $204 billion, Arnault is among a growing number of billionaires who have built collections of NFTs, including Mark Cuban and the Winklevoss twins. NFTs have fetched millions in recent years, with Beeple’s “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” selling for $69.3 million in 2021 at a Christie’s auction, and Clock by anonymous artist Pak selling for $52.7 million in February of 2022.
Arnault’s secret NFT collection highlights the growing importance of digital assets in the world of art and luxury goods. While some may view NFTs as a passing trend, Arnault’s interest in the digital assets suggests that they may have more staying power than previously thought. As the world of luxury goods continues to evolve and adapt to new technologies, it will be interesting to see how LVMH and other major players in the industry incorporate NFTs and other digital assets into their business models.
NFTs and the multi billion dollar opportunity
While some members of the traditional art world have been slow to embrace NFTs, there are signs that this is beginning to change. Major auction houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s have already started offering NFTs for sale, and many galleries and museums are beginning to explore the possibilities of digital art and blockchain technology.
One of the main reasons why some members of the traditional art world have been hesitant to embrace NFTs is that they view them as a threat to the traditional art market. However, there are also those who see NFTs as an opportunity to expand the art market and reach new audiences.
By offering NFTs, galleries and museums can make their collections more accessible to a wider audience, including those who may not have the means to purchase traditional art. They can also use NFTs to create new revenue streams by selling digital versions of their collections or offering exclusive access to certain works to NFT holders.
Some traditional artists have also begun experimenting with NFTs as a way to showcase their work in a new medium. For example, legendary artist Damien Hirst recently launched a series of NFTs called “The Currency,” which explores the relationship between art and money.
As the world of art continues to evolve and adapt to new technologies, it is likely that we will see more traditional artists, galleries, and museums embracing NFTs and other digital assets. While there may be some resistance to these new forms of art and collecting, it is clear that they are here to stay and will play an increasingly important role in the art world of the future.