Hong Kong had much to smile about on Tuesday when Swiss collector Uli Sigg gave close to 1,500 pieces of Chinese contemporary art to the permanent collection of M+, the planned 'platform for visual culture' in the to-be-built West Kowloon Cultural District. That single donation would comprise a third of the museum's collection of about 4,000 pieces.
Sotheby's put a price of HK$1.3 billion on the contribution, which is generous indeed.
Arts patronage, as we know, is not big in this city; neither do we have the same long tradition that the West has enjoyed. In the US, for instance, the Rockefeller Foundation has been promoting 'the well-being of humanity', which includes supporting the development of the arts since the 1910s. Private support in this area is lagging here.
However, as the Sigg donation has highlighted, this is gradually changing and we have seen more generous support from private quarters. One particularly moving case was when Chinese master painter Wu Guanzhong donated 52 pieces to the Museum of Art in Hong Kong in 2010 - just before he passed away in Beijing.
Then there is Swire Group which, through its charitable trust, has been supporting the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra since 2006. The company has just extended its commitment and patronage for another three years to 2015 at HK$13 million per year.
Another property giant, New World Development, is also in on the patronage game especially under Adrian Cheng Chi-kong, grandson of the company's founder Cheng Yu-tung. He apparently spent HK$20 million buying works by up-and-coming local and established international artists to kick-start his K11 Art Mall collection in 2009. You might question his taste but not his intentions.
But that's the thing - this being a commercial city where nothing comes free, the public is now finding arts patronage a novel idea. Is there such a thing as goodwill? Call me na?ve but I hope so, because the arts in Hong Kong can certainly benefit much from such generosity if it's to grow in the future.