Artist Cui Ruzhuo puts auction blunder behind him with launch of Hong Kong museum

Chinese artist whose HK$28 million painting was mistaken as rubbish and dumped at landfill reveals investor's plan to build a private museum in his name

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 8:06pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 3:36am

His HK$28 million painting might have been accidentally thrown into the trash after a blunder at an art auction in Hong Kong in April, but that hasn't stopped Cui Ruzhuo from dreaming big in the city.

The Chinese ink painter said a Hong Kong investor was putting up HK$600 million to build a private museum in Cui's name in Jardine's Lookout, that he hoped would be open within two years.

"I want to have more exposure in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a window not just for China but also for Chinese artists. Hong Kong, as an international platform, is a pioneer in promoting Chinese art to the world. It is a very precious place," Cui told the South China Morning Post prior to the opening of his first solo Hong Kong exhibition at the Hong Kong Arts Centre yesterday.

Cui declined to comment on the garbage blunder. "I'm 70. I don't want to remember bad things. All I can remember is that the sale was a huge success and it boosted my impact in Hong Kong," he said.

Cleaners at the Poly Auction Hong Kong sale apparently mistook the second top lot, Cui's Snowy Mountain, which was sold for HK$28 million, as rubbish and it was reportedly dumped in a landfill in Tuen Mun.

A source from the auction house said it settled the matter by paying large sums to compensate the seller and the buyer. The auction house did report the incident to the police but later withdrew the case.

Focusing on future ventures, Cui, who has museums under his name in Beijing and the city of Ito in Japan, did not reveal the investor's name but said they had recently acquired property in Jardine's Lookout.

Cui said he knew Hong Kong very well. Not only was he a regular visitor to the city and its art auctions, he said he made HK$50 million in the property market from trading Convention Plaza apartments in the 1990s.

Born in Beijing in 1944, Cui studied painting under Chinese painter Li Kuchan and was an instructor at the Academy of Arts and Design in Beijing until moving to the US in 1981.

He returned to China in 1996 and is a mentor of doctoral students at the Chinese National Academy of Arts. He also has a collection of more than 400 pieces of Chinese works of art.

Recent auction records have brought Cui to fame. In 2011, Lotus fetched HK$123.8 million at a Christie's auction in Hong Kong, setting a record for Cui at the time.

Landscape in Snow was sold at Poly Auction Hong Kong sale in April for HK$184 million - a new record for Cui.

Cui said although the country's economic development was accelerating, cultural development was lagging far behind. Last Friday, he donated 30 of his works to the National Museum of China in Beijing. "This country underestimates culture," he said.

Cui said the growth of China's economic power would draw global interest in Chinese art.

Although he is the highest priced artist of his generation right now, he is still far from his goal: "I hope that in five to 10 years' time, the prices of my paintings will surpass those of Western masters like Picasso and Van Gogh. It is a China dream."