Tributes have been rolling in for weeks after Hans Rasmus Astrup, the shipping billionaire best known for being one of the world’s leading art collectors, died at his elegant farm east of Oslo in late April. He was hailed as a friendly and generous man who’d inherited part of a shipping empire and did very well building upon it.
Astrup, who was 82, was born into a prominent family and studied law before heading to New York to work within shipping and finance in order, according to his friend Christen Sveaas, to “qualify” himself for work in the family firm Fearnley & Eger. His two older brothers Thomas and Nils Jørgen ended up taking over the shipowning portion of the business, which later ran into trouble, while Hans Rasmus took over the shipbroking operation that became known as Fearnleys. It did very well indeed, becoming one of the world’s leading ship brokerages.
Astrup also had widespread real estate holdings, with residences in Rome, Scotland, Oslo, the farm in Romerike east of the capital and what Sveaas described as Norway’s largest private forest lands, covering 1.3 million dekar (around 300,000 acres) and called Meraker Brug AS. Most all of Astrup’s assets, including the art he’d begun collecting as a young man, were put into a foundation called Stiftelsen Hans Rasmus Astrup in 2013.
That’s also when he opened the new Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo, which replaced the original Astrup Fearnley Museum that had been located in the building housing the shipbroking firm. The new museum became an immediate landmark on the waterfront at Tjuvholmen. Its stylish building designed by famed architect Renzo Piano has attracted visitors from all over the world and opened, according to art critic Kåre Bulie, a “decisive window to a bigger world” than what was offered at the public contemporary art museum.
Even though Astrup mingled with royalty, had plenty of rich and powerful friends and contributed towards creating a large new audience for contemporary art in Norway, he remained an intensely private man, described as both aristocratic and even mythical. He also remained “a bachelor” with no children. His “idealistic” foundation is aimed at securing the future of his businesses, his art and the museum that’s meant to keep the art accessible to the public.
He was laid to rest at Ullern Church in Oslo on Thursday. His family announced that “a larger memorial” would be held after Corona virus restrictions have been eased.