The Sigg Pic­ture

As Hong Kong gets its first look at the M+ mu­seum’s cor­ner­stone col­lec­tion of Chi­nese con­tem­po­rary art, the donor, Uli Sigg, dis­cusses his sem­i­nal ar­chive with Chloe Street

Hong Kong Tatler - - Life -

decade be­fore his death in 1899, English in­dus­tri­al­ist Henry Tate be­queathed his con­tem­po­rary art col­lec­tion to the na­tion along with money to build a gallery. This was the nu­cleus of what would be­come Tate Bri­tain. Sim­i­larly, a be­quest of mod­ern art from US col­lec­tor Lil­lie P Bliss in 1931 formed the foun­da­tion of New York’s Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art (Moma), which she also helped found. Just as Peggy Guggenheim’s pur­chases and home be­came the Peggy Guggenheim Col­lec­tion, a mod­ern art mu­seum on the Grand Canal in Venice, and Cather­ine the Great’s ac­qui­si­tions formed the State Her­mitage in St Peters­burg, nearly ev­ery world-class pub­lic art in­sti­tu­tion is born of an in­di­vid­ual’s col­lec­tion. So when, in 2012, Swiss col­lec­tor Uli Sigg pledged the vast ma­jor­ity of his un­par­al­leled col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese art to the M+ mu­seum of vis­ual cul­ture, Hong Kong re­joiced.

Now, for the first time since the be­quest was an­nounced, Hongkongers are to get a glimpse of this cor­ner­stone of the M+ col­lec­tion. A pop-up ex­hi­bi­tion at Quarry Bay’s Artistree gallery, M+ Sigg Col­lec­tion: Four Decades of Chi­nese Con­tem­po­rary Art, will dis­play 80 key works. The show, the lat­est in a se­ries of tem­po­rary events or­gan­ised in the run-up to com­ple­tion of con­struc­tion of the mu­seum in late 2017, has been cu­rated to re­flect the Sigg Col­lec­tion’s telling not only of the evo­lu­tion of con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese art, but also of the in­cred­i­ble so­cial and eco­nomic up­heaval that fol­lowed the Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion.

Busi­ness­man, for­mer diplo­mat and arts pa­tron Uli Sigg’s do­na­tion has given M+ a com­pre­hen­sive foun­da­tion for its col­lec­tion of Chi­nese con­tem­po­rary art

The Sigg col­lec­tion is uni­ver­sally recog­nised as the world’s largest and most com­pre­hen­sive as­sem­blage of Chi­nese con­tem­po­rary art from the 1970s to the present. It com­prises more than 1,500 works from 350 artists work­ing in a range of for­mats and medi­ums, in­clud­ing paint­ing, ink, sculp­ture, pho­tog­ra­phy, video and in­stal­la­tion. The 1,463 works do­nated by Sigg, as well as the 47 ad­di­tional pieces pur­chased by M+ as a demon­stra­tion of its com­mit­ment to the col­lec­tion (a com­mon prac­tice in such cir­cum­stances), have been val­ued by Sotheby’s at HK$1.3 bil­lion.

So how did the vi­sion­ary Swiss na­tional come to own a more com­pre­hen­sive body of Chi­nese con­tem­po­rary art than any Chi­nese in­di­vid­ual or in­sti­tu­tion? It all be­gan when Sigg moved to Bei­jing from Switzer­land in 1979 to ne­go­ti­ate, on be­half of lift man­u­fac­turer Schindler Group as its The se­cond sit­u­a­tion Geng Jianyi painted this set of four oils on can­vas in 1987. The sound­less, cyn­i­cal laugh­ter in th­ese early, anti-au­thor­i­tar­ian works is a cri­tique of pre­vail­ing Con­fu­cian teach­ings em­pha­sis­ing stoic re­straint above in­di­vid­ual pas­sion.

art an­gel

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