Parkview Arts Action Founder, Hong Kong’s Parkview Group Executive Chairman, in his 60s.
Billionaire art fan.
It was 1971 or ’72. I was studying in London, and my father visited me. We were walking along the streets and he saw an art gallery. He went in, bought a painting and—bloody hell, it cost 17,000 guineas. 17,000 guineas could get you a house at the time. I still have [that painting].
I’m always childish. I hate growing up, seriously.
My life is really simple. I sleep five hours at the most, and I get up in the morning, very early, six or seven o’clock. I work hard. I push myself. I don’t like to take holidays.
I get very upset if people don’t use their brains. Pisses me off. I always tell people to think. I also have a very good memory. I didn’t train myself; it’s just the way I am. My senses are always working when I walk the streets. Most importantly, so too are my eyes… when I see something, I “catch” it [like all] memories.
When I was young, I collected stamps, coins and records. As you mature, you collect slightly more expensive things. How you collect evolves, and being a businessman, you can afford to do something slightly bigger, so you start collecting nice artwork.
There’s a Chinese saying, “坐电梯” (“ride the lift” in Mandarin), right? When we say that, there’s no chair involved so I buy a chair to be placed in a lift, and I say, please sit, 坐电梯 and that’s fun for me. You find small personal touches of mine in my buildings.
I like art. I never qualified, wasn’t good enough for art school, but the passion is always there. The best advice? Just get involved. Don’t shut yourself away. Clear your mind, walk around, see more things and start collecting. But check your pockets first. Check [if you have enough money].
I’m all for chasing the quality of life. I eat the best food—not necessarily expensive but tasty. Sometimes, I’ll eat at McDonald’s because I miss it.
I am the oldest child in the family. I spent most of my time with my father, more than anyone else. All I wanted to do was to make sure he was happy. I always liked working for him. Even when he passed away, for the first few years, I couldn’t, um, I couldn’t free myself because I still [had the mentality of working under him]. Years later, I realised that I’m the boss because there’s no one else; I had to call the shots. And that’s the moment when I grew up and started doing my own thing.
Singaporehasgonethrough some tough times and, today, with the world doing so well, we seem to forget about the bad parts. It’s important to carry that burden with you and make sure you don’t go through the same thing again.
The story is always more important. In traditional painting, you’re taught scale; art school teaches you how to paint, but contemporary art is about language. If a piece has no meaning, it’s shit.
For me, art is a vehicle. You don’t need a Picasso to contribute to the On Sharks & Humanity exhibit. All you need is someone who can present a sculpture or an artwork with a message to save the sharks. My grandson, he did a painting and he’s only 10. He said, “Grandpa, can I do something for the sharks?” And I said, yeah, go on. He is an example for future artists, I hope. Instead of using film stars, I use artwork to tell the world. It is more direct, more precise, and that’s how the artwork becomes a vehicle to deliver a message.
I have [a huge art] collection and I like to show it to the public. We have our own building in Singapore so I took advantage of it by presenting my collection in Singapore for Singaporeans. It’s not going to increase the value of my building; instead, it decreases my income because I have to deal with rental, but like I said, we can afford it.
You start with one or two pieces of art; you put it in your office, you put it in your bedroom, but later, you realise you’re collecting too many. At the end of the day, your artwork has to be seen in public; you can no longer keep them at home. Soon, one building isn’t enough, so you have two buildings, then that isn’t enough either.
Why does something have to be done in a certain way? I’d want to do it differently. That [philosophy] has changed how I live life and conduct my businesses. I always revolutionise my restaurants, shopping malls, offices and hotel developments, and everyone tries to copy me. The latest exhibition at The Parkview Museum is
Lines of Affinity by Master Hsing Yun. It runs until October 27 and is open free to the public Monday to Saturday, noon to 7pm. It is closed on Sundays.