Duty-free tycoon Robert Miller donates HK$100 million for arts funding

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 May, 2014, 4:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 May, 2014, 4:00am

The founder of a Hong Kong shopping chain wants to promote local artists with one of the city's largest cash gifts for the arts.

US-born Robert Miller, director and co-owner of the DFS Group, will give HK$100 million to the Asia Society Hong Kong Centre. It follows his 2004 contribution of US$3 million to convert the centre's heritage military facilities in Admiralty into a theatre named after him.

This time, the money will go towards commissioning local talent to produce major new works or stage site-specific performances at the centre.

"The donation will also enable emerging talents to hone their skill sets by collaborating with seasoned artists and to have a platform where they can showcase that work to the Hong Kong audience," Miller told the South China Morning Post.

Born in 1933 in Quincy, Massachusetts, Miller settled in Hong Kong in 1960 and co-founded Duty Free Shoppers, now known as the DFS Group. He also runs an investment firm in the city.

Alice Mong, executive director of the centre, said Miller had long been affiliated with the Asia Society since it set up its Hong Kong branch in 1990.

He is now a trustee emeritus of the Asia Society in the United States.

The cash injection will make Miller Theatre and Miller Gallery an incubator of local artists, commissioning them to create works and putting them on the world map through collaboration with global artists or display opportunities at the society's other centres overseas.

The gallery will be renamed the Chantal Miller Gallery in honour of Miller's wife.

In Hong Kong, tycoons tend to favour making major donations to charities promoting health and education rather than to the arts.

"I hope this donation will encourage other potential donors to come forward," he said. "Philanthropy in the arts in Hong Kong, if better funded, will open up the many different facets of the art world … to the local audience."