Late Hong Kong tycoon’s Chinese abstract art project to continue

Art was George Wong’s passion, and despite the Parkview Group chairman’s unexpected death last week, staff at the Parkview art galleries and museums are proceeding with plans, including a Hong Kong show of Chinese abstract art

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 December, 2017, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2017, 4:40pm

George Wong Kin-wah had many art projects in the pipeline when he died unexpectedly last weekend. Despite the uncertainties now facing the Wong family’s Parkview Group, the team at the billionaire’s Hong Kong gallery has vowed to carry out his wishes as they unveil an exhibition marking the gallery’s new focus on Chinese abstract art.

“He was here in the gallery last Friday and making last-minute tweaks to the display. He seemed fine. He was very energetic,” says Alberto Annesi, director of Parkview Art Hong Kong.

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Wong, 65, was the executive chairman of an international property company best known in Hong Kong for its eponymous residential development in Tai Tam. he died peacefully in his sleep last Saturday.

His roughly 10,000-piece art collection includes works by famous contemporary Chinese artists, the world’s biggest Salvador Dali collection outside Spain, antique Chinese Buddhist statues, bronzewares and Hollywood collectibles.

The art is spread across the company’s residential and commercial properties around the world, including the 4,000 square metre Parkview Museum at the Parkview Green commercial complex in Beijing, and the 1,500 square metre Parkview Museum Singapore, which opened in 2013 and 2017 respectively.

In Hong Kong, a small selection from the bon vivant’s vast collection is shown in the Parkview Hong Kong clubhouse, an eccentric display of artwork presented cheek-by-jowl and even on the ceiling.

“On Sharks and Humanity”, the biggest art exhibition by Parkview Group’s philanthropic arm, which urges a stop to shark fin consumption, is being shown at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum.

According to Annesi, the business side should not be heavily disrupted by Wong’s death, as his daughter Nancy and son Alexander are already involved in running the Hong Kong and Beijing divisions.

However, the commercial art gallery business and the museums were largely Wong’s personal passion, and he can only hope that the family will continue to support the ventures in the future.

The Parkview Art Hong Kong gallery in Old Bailey Street, Central, is relaunching as a Chinese abstract art specialist with an exhibition of paintings by Mao Lizi, Yuan Zuo, Meng Luding and Ma Kelu.

“When the gallery opened in 2014, we were selling both European and Chinese art. But we realised how little Chinese abstract art is understood generally so we have decided to make our focus more precise,” says Annesi. The gallery now has a strong emphasis on Chinese abstract art.

“Many people in academia think that Chinese abstraction is strongly influenced by Western culture. There is no proper identity for Chinese abstraction and our idea is to help these artists write a small chapter in art history,” he adds.

The gallery is working mainly with artists born in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Kelu, a self-taught Shanghainese artist who was a member of the No Name Group, an underground collective in Beijing in the 1970s.

Spurred by the loss of his father and his son in 2007, Ma made a series of paintings called Spring Festival using his son’s favourite colours – vibrant splashes of green and yellow that dispel the dark shades of death.

Another influential artist is Lizi, which the gallery has presented in numerous art fairs. Born in 1950, the founding member of China’s avant-garde Stars Group started out painting in a hyper-realistic style but switched to abstract in 2005, producing popular works such as his poetic Ambiguous Flower series in blue and brown.

The Parkview Museum says it will continue with its planned 2018 calendar, reflecting Wong’s vision and passion.

Parkview Museum Singapore has also just announced its programme for Singapore Art Week 2018 called Reframe, a series of guided tours, sketching sessions and discussions held from Jan 17-28 to accompany an ongoing exhibition at the museum called The Artist’s Voice.

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This show will attempt to demonstrate the power of art to convey ethical messages and the idea of being human and alive. Among the artists whose work is featured are Marina Abramovic, Gilbert and George, Bill Viola and Qiu Anxiong.

On Sharks and Humanity, Hong Kong Maritime Museum, Central Pier No. 8, Central, 9:30am-5:30pm, Monday to Friday, 10am-7pm, Sat, Sun and Public Holidays, until December 31.

The Artist’s Voice, Parkview Museum Singapore, Level 3, Parkview Square, 600 North Bridge Road, Singapore, 12pm-7pm, Monday to Saturday, until March 18, 2018.