Thomas S. Kaplan is an American entrepreneur and investor, environmentalist and art collector. Dr. Kaplan and his wife, Daphne Recanati Kaplan, began to collect the art of the Dutch Golden Age in 2003. Within a few years they established The Leiden Collection, named in honor of Rembrandt’s birthplace. Their commitment to Rembrandt and his circle soon evolved into one of the most important collections of seventeenth-century Dutch art in private hands. The Kaplans’ collecting began with Mrs. Kaplan’s early engagement with twentieth century modernist design, an area in which she assembled one of the finest collections of the great French and Italian masters of the era, including Jean Prouvé, Alexander Noll, Charlotte Perriand and Carlo Mollino.
Born in New York in 1962, Dr. Kaplan developed his abiding love for the art of Rembrandt and the Old Masters during childhood visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and, later, to Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and the Louvre in Paris. When his family moved to Florida, Dr. Kaplan developed a passion for wildlife conservation, a cause he later revisited as the founder of the felid conservation charity Panthera.
Dr. Kaplan was educated in Switzerland and went to Oxford for his university years, earning his Bachelor’s, Master’s and D. Phil degrees in History. His doctoral dissertation covered the Malayan counterinsurgency and the manner in which commodities influenced strategic planning during the Cold War. He maintains this interest in strategic studies, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Advisory Board of the Belfer Center at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
Dr. Kaplan began investing in natural resources in 1993. His initial focus was on silver mining. Dr. Kaplan thereafter branched into platinum and hydrocarbon investments, both of which he sold to industry partners in 2007. His business thesis has been the enthusiastic and determined pursuit of extraordinary assets to express his conviction about a specific, often out-of-favor commodity. Dr. Kaplan’s business interests are now consolidated within The Electrum Group, LLC, a New York City-based investment advisory and asset management firm that he serves as Chairman. Electrum has a focus on the natural resources sector, with a particular emphasis on the acquisition of gold and silver mining assets. The company itself takes its name from electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver used in the earliest coinage.
The Kaplans’ philanthropic engagement ranges from the local to the global. Within the cultural realm, the Kaplans are committed to bringing their love of Dutch art to a broader public by lending works from The Leiden Collection to museums internationally, both as loans to hang with permanent collections and in temporary exhibitions. The Kaplans’ interests are educational as well, as expressed through an online scholarly catalogue of the collection, overseen by Dr. Arthur Wheelock, intended to be among the most accessible and transparent of its kind. Dr. Kaplan’s other activities in the fields of art and culture include his service as President (2009–12) and Chairman (2012–15) of New York’s 92nd Street Y, the city’s premier cultural and community center. He currently serves as Chairman of the 92nd St Y’s acclaimed Talks and Conversations series, while Mrs. Kaplan and Robert Gilson conceived of the Recanati-Kaplan Program for Excellence in the Arts, which funds scholarships based on artistic merit for children and teens to study with the 92Y’s renowned School of the Arts.
Dr. and Mrs. Kaplan are among the foremost advocates of wildlife conservation, having invested over $100 million in the cause of endangered species preservation over the last decade. They founded Panthera in 2006 to protect and preserve big cats and their ecosystems from extinction, an enterprise that now encompasses over a hundred partnerships in fifty countries. In 2009, they endowed the Recanati-Kaplan Center at Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit to create what has become the most renowned university-based center for felid conservation. The Kaplans also founded the Orianne Society, named after their daughter who conceived of the initiative, to preserve the Eastern Indigo Snake and its critical habitat in the fast-disappearing long-leaf pine forests of the southeastern United States.
Dr. and Mrs. Kaplan live in New York and have maintained a home for many years in Paris, where their eldest children were born and where they introduced the entire family to art at the Louvre. Their service to France in various arenas was recognized in 2012 when Dr. Kaplan was appointed a Chevalier in the National Order of the Legion of Honor.
For those interested in the Kaplans’ journey as collectors, read Thomas Kaplan’s essay A Portrait in Oil, which describes the origins and development of The Leiden Collection as seen through their eyes.