Priceless collection of Chinese paintings and calligraphy donated to Hong Kong Museum of Art by family of late philanthropist Ho Iu-kwong

Works from Song, Ming and Qing dynasties among 355 pieces that will feature in dedicated Chih Lo Lou Gallery

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 July, 2018, 10:16pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 July, 2018, 11:20pm

A priceless art collection featuring some of the finest examples of ancient Chinese paintings and calligraphy has been donated to the Hong Kong Museum of Art by a private studio linked to the late philanthropist Ho Iu-kwong.

The 355 pieces of art, which date from the Song dynasty about 1,000 years ago through to the 20th century, comprise one of the most valuable donations from a private collection to the government in recent years.

Considered priceless because of the rarity of many of the pieces, the museum’s curator, Szeto Yuen-kit said conservative estimates would value the collection in the billions of dollars.

“If we must give a price tag to the items, it is a conservative estimate that the donated pieces are worth HK$3.8 billion,” Szeto said.

“We are very thankful for the generous donation from the Ho family. It is undoubtedly one of the most important donations we received in recent years.”

Donated by the Chih Lo Lou, a private art studio built up by Ho, many of works are by “loyalist” artists from the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, whose dedication to their own nation even after its fall was much appreciated by Ho.

Highlights of the collection include a hanging scroll entitled Pines and Rock, an ink painting by Ming dynasty artist Huang Daozhou, who is most admired for his depictions of the traditional symbols of perseverance and constancy.

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There is also a painting by the legendary Ming dynasty scholar Tang Yin, one of the so-called “Four Masters of Ming dynasty” whose life story is part of popular Chinese folklore.

At a donation ceremony held at the Government House on Thursday, Chih Lo Lou Art Promotion chairman Ho Sai-chu, a son of Ho Iu-kwong and also a former legislator, said: “My father held high regard for the loyalist artists of the late Ming dynasty.

“He always said integrity is most the important virtue and insisted that the artist’s temperament should take precedence over the quality of his artwork. So, he mainly collected works by artists of high integrity.”

The senior Ho started collecting ancient Chinese paintings and calligraphy in the 1950s when pieces were being snapped up by overseas collectors from those fleeing to Hong Kong after the Communist Party took over the mainland.

He set up the Chih Lo Lou gallery in 1985, with the purpose of preserving ancient Chinese art and keeping it in Chinese hands. In Chinese, “Chih Lo” means “bliss” for the pleasure of appreciating masterpieces.

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“We hope we could also play a role in promoting Chinese culture and arts, as well as patriotism by making them more accessible to the public and the younger generation,” Ho Sai-chu said.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who officiated at Thursday’s donation ceremony, thanked the family for their generosity.

There will be a dedicated gallery, to be named the “Chih Lo Lou Gallery of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy”, in the Museum of Art to display the pieces when the museum in Tsim Sha Tsui reopens in November next year.