Gift of beauty

Col­lec­tor do­nates art­work to spread good taste

China Daily (USA) - - NEWS - Deng Zhangyu re­ports. Con­tact the writer at dengzhangyu@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

The main prob­lem for Ge­orge Wong is find­ing space to store and dis­play his grow­ing col­lec­tion of art­work.

The Hong Kong col­lec­tor, who has been amass­ing Chi­nese ink paint­ings, cal­lig­ra­phy, an­tiques, celebri­ties’ let­ters, oil paint­ings, sculp­tures and in­stal­la­tions since the 1990s, does not know how many such items he owns.

“I’m in­ter­ested in ev­ery­thing. I have never set a cap on the pur­chase of art­works and what kind of items I buy,” says the 65-year-old ex­ec­u­tive of Hong Kong real estate firm, the Parkview Group.

Wong, who also likes wine, has more than 100,000 bot­tles in his col­lec­tion.

He has also opened many restau­rants based on his own culi­nary pref­er­ences.

Wang once bought two No­bel Prize medals to show his re­spect for those who have made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the progress of hu­man­ity.

Speak­ing about his col­lec­tion, Wong, who met China Daily at his of­fice in Bei­jing’s Parkview Green, a com­plex he built in 2010 that brings art into a com­mer­cial cen­ter, says: “I don’t buy the most ex­pen­sive things. I only pay for my in­ter­est and for the works I re­ally love.”

The pri­vate mu­seum on the build­ing’s rooftop dis­plays Wong’s col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary Ital­ian art from the 1960s.

Art­works also dot his of­fice space.

A Bud­dha statue with­out a head sports a fu­tur­is­tic mask like the ones in StarWars movies.

Then, there are oil por­traits ofWong and his wife.

Paint­ings by his grand­chil­dren fea­ture on car­pets made for the meet­ing room.

Wong says buy­ing art­work is so ad­dic­tive that once he be­gan, he could not stop.

His hobby dates back to his child­hood when he be­gan col­lect­ing mar­bles, then buy­ing stamps and CDs. Dur­ing his years in Lon­don, he bought paint­ings and celebri­ties’ let­ters.

Wong has a pas­sion for con­tem­po­rary art, which he says has no lim­i­ta­tions.

“It’s like my per­son­al­ity. I’m open to new ideas and new things. I like change,” he says.

“My artist friends are all fond of me. I’m hu­mor­ous, will­ing to talk to them about art and fi­nally I buy some of their works.”

Zhang Meng, who works in Wong’s pri­vate mu­seum in Bei­jing, says: “He is very funny. Ev­ery time we talk to him, it is like a talk show.”

Demon­strat­ing Wong’s close ties with the artists, he pulls out a book on which Chi­nese oil painter Liu Xiaodong has writ­ten: “We all love you, bossWong.”

Wong bought two of Liu’s works from his show in Florence a few­months ago.

Wong has about 45 sculp­tures by Span­ish artist Sal­vador Dali.

While some of the pieces are dis­played in his Bei­jing shop­ping mall, oth­ers have been do­nated to theNa­tion­alMu­seum of China.

Wong, in­ci­den­tally, is one of the few art col­lec­tors who has at­tracted me­dia at­ten­tion by do­nat­ing his art to mu­se­ums and schools even as other Chi­nese col­lec­tors are at­tract­ing at­ten­tion with their big-ticket pur­chases of art by Western masters.

Among the re­cip­i­ents of Wong’s gen­eros­ity is the Nan­jing Uni­ver­sity of Arts.

The acade­mynowhas about 60 con­tem­po­rary pieces given byWong.

“I want to cul­ti­vate a taste for art in the young. I also want to pro­vide a chan­nel for con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese artists’ works to be seen in schools,” Wong says.

“I usu­ally show them a list of works frommy col­lec­tion, and it is up to schools and mu­se­ums to se­lect the works they want.”

Wong also loves to show his col­lec­tion to the pub­lic.

That’s why he keeps build­ing exhibition spa­ces in dif­fer­ent cities and coun­tries.

Be­sides Bei­jing, Hong Kong and Sin­ga­pore — where he is open­ing an art space at the be­gin­ning of next year — Wong plans to add an­other two spa­ces — one in Tai­wan and one in Guangzhou, Guang­dong prov­ince.

Wong is so com­mit­ted to show­ing his art that within 10 min­utes of re­ceiv­ing a small horse paint­ing by Chi­nese painter Xu Bei­hong, which he bought for HK$1 mil­lion ($128,900) in Au­gust, he had it dis­played in his Hong Kong art space.

Wong is of­ten re­ferred to as an “old child” by his friends. He spends a lot of time meet­ing artists, and vis­it­ing art fairs and mu­se­ums.

Speak­ing about his con­nec­tion with art, he says: “I see my­self as a ver­sa­tile per­son rather than a col­lec­tor. But art is part of my life. It’s the source of my en­joy­ment and fun.”

I don’t buy the most ex­pen­sive things. I only pay for my in­ter­est and for the works I re­ally love.” Ge­orgeWong, Hong Kong col­lec­tor

PHO­TOS BY FENG YONGBIN / CHINA DAILY

Ge­orgeWong shows off his col­lec­tions at his of­fice space on the rooftop of Bei­jing’s Parkview Green.

Vis­i­tors atWong’s pri­vate mu­seum in Bei­jing for the on­go­ing show of his col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary Ital­ian art.

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