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, 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 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.
- The Writing of Art, Pushkin Press, 2012.
- "The Fragmented Self" in Dieter Buchart ed., Jean-Michel Baquiat: Now's the Time, Prestel, 2015.
- "The Theater as Metaphor" in Olivier Berggruen and Max Hollein eds., Picasso and the Theater, Hantje Cantz, 2007.
- Editor (with Max Holbein), Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors: Masterpieces from the Late Years, Prestel, 2006.
- “Ed Ruscha: Ribbon of Words” in Ed Ruscha: The Drawn Word, Edited with Essay, Windsor Press (2004), pp. 1 - 7
- “The Prints of Jean-Michel Basquiat”, Print Quarterly, XXVI (2009): pp. 28 - 38
- “The Future of Painting” in Portraits Lost in Space: George Condo, Pace Wildenstein, New York (1999), pp. 30 - 34
- “The Realm of Pure Sensations” in Playing With Form: Neoconcrete Art From Brazil, Edited with Essay, Dickinson New York (2011), pp. 19 - 27
- “Picasso & Bacon: Painting the Other Self” in Francis Bacon and the Tradition of Art, Edited by Wilfried Seipel, Barbara Steffen, Christoph Vitali, Skira Editore S.p.A. (2003), pp.71 - 83
- “The Summons to Living Things to Return Home” in Cy Twombly: Bacchus, Gagosian Gallery, 2005, pp. 5 -15
- “The Landscape of the Mind” in Agnes Martin, Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG Zurich (2008)
- Mary M. Lane, "A Family's Legacy Grows in Berlin", The Wall Street Journal
- "venetia kapernekas gallery". Venetiakapernekas.com. 2008-06-13. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
- "Olivier Berggruen on Anita Brookner (1928–2016) - artforum.com / passages". Artforum.com. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
- Korman, Sam (2011-10-14). "The Brazilian Form - News - Art in America". Artinamericamagazine.com. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
- "Arts & Sociétés". Artsetsocietes.org. 2006-06-29. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
- "Guggenheim Museum Bilbao" (PDF). Sismus.org. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
- "Olivier Berggruen". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
- "Picasso Black and White". Guggenheim.org. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
- "Cy Twombly". Gagosian.com. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
- Alexandra Wolfe."Picasso's Productive Roman Holiday, Wall Street Journal, September 8th, 2017.
- "The Curator — Olivier Berggruen - Steinway & Sons". www.steinway.com. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
- "Heinz Berggruen, Influential Picasso Collector, Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
- Ward, Vicky (2016-05-11). "Nicolas Berggreun Interview- Why Nicolas Berggreun is Creating an Institute for Geniuses". Townandcountrymag.com. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
- "Jacques Herzog explains the spheres in his design for the Berggruen Institute | Design & Architecture". blogs.kcrw.com. Retrieved 2018-06-17. "[Nicolas] Berggruen [is the] son of the late Heinz Berggruen, a prominent art dealer, and brother of art critic and historian Olivier Berggruen."
- "Mariinsky Foundation of America". mariinsky.us. Retrieved 2016-06-24.
- Board of Governors, John Carter Brown Library of Brown University
- "Olivier Berggruen, The Writing of Art". PhilPapers.org. 2012-03-25. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
- Olivier Berggruen official website
- Profile of Olivier Berggruen in the Wall Street Journal
- Obituary of Anita Brookner by Olivier Berggruen in Artforum
- "Collecting Art: Philanthropy or Self-Glorification?" by Olivier Berggruen in the Huffington Post
- "Ludwig Wittgenstein and the World of Objects" by Olivier Berggruen, lecture delivered at Sciences Po, October 19, 2016.
- "Réelle Présences: Des Éléments Décoratifs des Ballets Parades et Mercure Considérés en tant que Sculptures", by Olivier Berggruen, lecture delivered at the Musée Picasso's colloquium on sculpture, March 24, 2016. (In French.)