Born in Winterthur, Switzerland, Berggruen is the son of noted German art collector Heinz Berggruen and actress Bettina Moissi. He graduated from the College of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and completed his graduate studies at the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London, where he studied with Anita Brookner, who was his advisor.
He briefly worked at the auction house Sotheby's in London, before serving as curator at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt. He has lectured at numerous institutions, including Carnegie Mellon University, The National Gallery in London, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C., the 92nd Street Y, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Paris Institute of Political Studies. He currently serves as chairman of the Thomas J. Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and was the recipient of the 2009 Berliner Zeitung Media Award.
Berggruen has curated a number of international exhibitions, such as a retrospective of Yves Klein at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and one of Beatrice Caracciolo at the French Academy in Rome. He is a contributor to the Huffington Post, for which he writes articles on art, literature, and philosophy. Additionally, he has written extensively on Picasso, Yves Klein, and Henri Matisse, among others, for organizations including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, publications such as Artforum and The Print Quarterly, and for Gagosian Gallery, for which he contributed with University of Cambridge professor Mary Jacobus. His first book, The Writing of Art, is a series of essays, which explores aesthetics through the lens of twentieth-century art, tracing movements and trends such as the ontological discontinuity of modernism in Picasso's ballets. He is currently working on two book projects, including a history of collecting and a study of Wittgenstein's aesthetics, and will be lecturing at the Courtauld Institute in the 2017–18 academic year. Recently, the Italian government has commissioned Berggruen to curate an exhibition to celebrate the centennial of Picasso's Italian journey. “Picasso: From Cubism to Classicism, 1915 to 1925,” will be held at Rome's Scuderie del Quirinale from September 22st, 2017, through January 21st, 2018.
Berggruen lives in New York City with his wife, Desiree, whom he met while both were studying at Brown. She is a doctor, and together they have two children, Tobias and Ana. His brother is billionaire and philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen; he additionally has two half-siblings, John, a San Francisco-based art dealer, and Helen, a painter. He serves on various committees at institutions across the world, including Brown University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Tate Modern, Picasso Museum in Paris, Courtauld Institute, Museum Berggruen, and Mariinsky Ballet.
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