Austrian billionaire Heidi Horten died Sunday at the age of 81, the Heidi Horton Collection said in a statement, days after she opened a private museum in Vienna featuring her nearly billion-dollar art collection.
Horten died early Sunday morning at her home at Lake Wörthersee, Austria, in what the museum called a “completely unexpected death.”
Horten opened her own museum showcasing her private art collection earlier this month, which has more than 16,000 square feet of exhibition space and is devoted to emerging and mid-career artists, many of whom are Austrian.
Horten became an overnight sensation in the art collecting world in 1996, when she spent up to $22 million on art in a single Sotheby’s auction, acquiring pieces from Francis Bacon, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Klee and others.
The Heidi Horten Collection said it will commemorate its founder’s death with free admission for the next week starting Monday.
$2.9 billion. That was Horten’s net worth as of Sunday, making her the 1,040th wealthiest person on Earth, according to Forbes’ estimates.
Horten met her future husband, German department store Horten AG founder Helmut Horten, at a bar in Austria in 1959. When Helmut Horten died in 1987, Horten inherited a fortune of about $1 billion. Horten began collecting art before her husband’s death, and eventually came to own hundreds of works, including pieces from Pablo Piccasso and Andy Warhol. In addition to her arts patronage, Horten also served as president of the KAC, an Austrian hockey team, and sat on the board of Helmut Horten Stiftung, a charitable foundation supporting medical research and health care institutions.
“I am proud, with my collection and the construction of the museum, to have created something lasting, which future generations will also be able to experience when they visit my museum and take joy in the art that has given me such joy for so long,” Horten said in a statement posted on her museum’s website prior to her passing.