Skip to main content

Collector donates US$167.5M in art to Hong Kong museum

By Alexis Lai, CNN
June 13, 2012 -- Updated 0832 GMT (1632 HKT)
Zeng Fanzhi's
Zeng Fanzhi's "Rainbow," an oil on canvas dated 1996, is one of 1,463 works donated by Uli Sigg to Hong Kong's M+ museum.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Most of world's premier Chinese contemporary art collection donated to Hong Kong museum
  • Valued at HK$1.3 billion (US$ 167.5 million), donation includes 1,463 artworks by 310 artists
  • Art comes from acclaimed collection of Uli Sigg, a former Swiss ambassador to China

Hong Kong (CNN) -- A huge trove of artwork from the world's premier collection of Chinese contemporary art has been donated to a new visual culture museum in Hong Kong.

The donation features 1,463 pieces of artwork by 310 artists, including many critically-acclaimed names such as Ai Weiwei, Fang Lijun, Zhang Xiaogang, Gu Wenda, Zeng Fanzhi, and Xu Bing, according to museum authorities.

Valued at a total of HK$1.3 billion (US$ 167.5 million) by auction house Sotheby's, the works stem from a celebrated private collection amassed over the past three decades by Uli Sigg, a former Swiss ambassador to China and a renowned art collector.

Sigg's collection is internationally acclaimed not only for being the world's largest trove of Chinese contemporary art, but also for its comprehensiveness and historical importance in documenting the development of contemporary art in China.

"The period 1979 - 2009 in China is a unique moment in art history. Given both the fact that many works, especially from the first ten years of this period were destroyed due to lack of interest from collectors and institutions, and the subsequent boom in the market for these works, it would be impossible to now build a collection similar in depth, scope and quality," Lars Nittve, the M+ museum's executive director, said in a statement.

"By joining forces with M+, the art works will ultimately come full circle back to China as I have always hoped they would," Sigg added. He said his donation is intended to "enable these artists to have a space within M+ where they will communicate with an international audience, and where they will meet with a Chinese public."

The donation, which will form part of M+'s permanent collection, provides a tremendous boost to the yet-as-unbuilt museum, which is intended to be the flagship facility in an ambitious government-led project to create a contemporary arts complex called the West Kowloon Cultural District. The high-profile project has experienced repeated delays, scrapped plans, high staff turnover, and many rounds of public consultations since its announcement in 1998.

Sigg's contribution is the "most important development to date for the West Kowloon project," said Claire Hsu, co-founder and executive director of Asia Art Archive. "It's extremely significant in the sense that it's an encyclopedic collection—he went about collecting it as if he was an institution as opposed to [assembling] a personal collection."

In a talk at the Asia Society in November, Nittve said he was discussing with major Asian art collectors the possibility of donations, given the museum had HK $1.7 billion in seed funding -- an amount that would not go far in purchasing top-notch Chinese contemporary art, which has shot up in price in recent years. A Zhang Xiaogang painting set an auction record of HK$ 79 million (US$ 10 million) for Chinese contemporary art in April 2011.

"It will be wonderful to have such an important collection in a public institution which can properly commit to its display and conservation for generations well beyond ours," said Yana Peel, a Hong-Kong-based contemporary arts philanthropist and founder of Outset Contemporary Arts Fund. Peel called Sigg's donation "transformational for the museum and for our community."

M+ has also acquired 47 works from Sigg's collection for HK$ 177 million (US$ 22.8 million) under a split gift-purchase agreement.

The museum is slated to open in 2017.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0109 GMT (0909 HKT)
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, set off a media kerfuffle this month when he spoke about his next reincarnation.
September 28, 2014 -- Updated 1418 GMT (2218 HKT)
He's one of the fieriest political activists in Hong Kong — he's been called an "extremist" by China's state-run media — and he's not old enough to drive.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0257 GMT (1057 HKT)
China has no wine-making tradition but the country now uncorks more bottles of red than any other.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 0929 GMT (1729 HKT)
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0538 GMT (1338 HKT)
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 0545 GMT (1345 HKT)
Reforms to the grueling gaokao - the competitive college entrance examination - don't make the grade, says educator Jiang Xueqin.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1218 GMT (2018 HKT)
Beijing grapples with reports from Iraq that a Chinese national fighting for ISIS has been captured.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0200 GMT (1000 HKT)
CNN's David McKenzie has tasted everything from worms to grasshoppers while on the road; China's cockroaches are his latest culinary adventure.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 0057 GMT (0857 HKT)
Beijing rules only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
China warns the United States to end its military surveillance flights near Chinese territory.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0312 GMT (1112 HKT)
China has produced elite national athletes but some argue the emphasis on winning discourages children. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0513 GMT (1313 HKT)
Chinese are turning to overseas personal shoppers to get their hands on luxury goods at lower prices.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 0908 GMT (1708 HKT)
Experts say rapidly rising numbers of Christians are making it harder for authorities to control the religion's spread.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 0452 GMT (1252 HKT)
"I'm proud of their moral standing," says Harvey Humphrey. His parents are accused of corporate crimes in China.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1942 GMT (0342 HKT)
A TV confession detailing a life of illegal gambling and paid-for sex has capped the dramatic fall of one of China's most high-profile social media celebrities.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 0410 GMT (1210 HKT)
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has snared its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0712 GMT (1512 HKT)
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Is the Chinese president a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
ADVERTISEMENT