HK billionaire George Wong showcases his art collection in Parkview Group’s building

“I never follow the rules,” says the group executive chairman.

George Wong is not afraid to call himself the “black sheep” of the hotel industry. Neither does the executive chairman of Hong Kong’s Parkview Group shy away from confessing he spends far more time pursuing his love for art than actually working on his property developments.

“When I am working on a development, I always look at a different angle. I never follow the rules. I’m the black sheep of the industry. It’s almost like the language of contemporary art. I try not to repeat what others have done and try to make a revolution,” he says.

Degree of Killing by You Jin at the current On Sharks & Humanity exhibition. It shows nature being invaded by twisted dimensions. The dramatic lines and bright colours of the painting threaten the shark with death and extinction.

Made up of more than 70 pieces of transparent material, Don’t Copy II by Li Jiwei forms the outline of a shark.

George Wong and Marcus Wong

Marcus Wong’s Don’t Kill Me. The simple approach, the application of colour and the basic strokes have a twofold appeal. They give spontaneity and authenticity to the approach, forcing viewers to adopt a child’s view, which in turns evokes a great sense of empathy. Moreover, these qualities also unite audiences across different generations.

Wang Luyan’s Downward Force on Upward Moving Objects. This mass installation of stainless steel buoys look as if it were floating above water – like weights pressing down on imaginary waves. These conflicting forces illustrate the battle between man’s greed and the need to control it.

Yu Yang’s Enlightenment. The interwoven mesh of harpoons describes the shark’s form and at the same time the destruction of the creature’s body.

Thomas Schoos’ Equilibrium. In the painting, a life-sized Great White Shark has been superimposed over an aging, dilapidated boat of the kind often used for poaching and shark finning.

Gao Xiaowu’s Evolution. This sculptural depiction of a shark transforming into an extravagantly ornamental goldfish illustrates the human tendency to work against nature.

Fan Xueyi’s I Am Part of You uses language to build vivid imagery and evoke an emotional response in the reader.

Xia Hang’s Little Boy show the death and slaughter of sharks.

Ling Jian’s Nature Chain aims to encourage viewers to reconsider their attitude towards nature and their responsibility of protecting it through visual and aesthetic inspiration.

Robert Zhao Renhui’s Painted Molly, Rainbow Start Warrior Variant uses a sophisticated version of the dye laser to create colourful mollies with as many as 256 colours.

Wu Mingzhong’s Shark Shark. The black coloured stains on the canvas convey a sense of violence and lend a bleak tone to the artwork.

Wang Guofeng’s Shiver asks the audience to reflect on man’s relationship with nature and to consider how the overfishing of sharks impacts the marine ecosystem – and what disastrous results may come.

Zou Liang’s Swimming. On its back are the figures of two small children, illustrating the idea that humans are not a part of the sharks’ natural food chain and that sharks are not humans’ natural enemies.

Mark Leong’s The Harvest.

David Chan’s The Saviour is a satirical look at the eventual end. When technology has eroded and buildings have crumbled, will Man the destroyer be Man the saviour?

Zheng Lu’s The Tomb of Honour. The glossy exterior of the heart provides a stark contrast to its jagged, hazardous interior.

Hou Zhongying’s This Is Not Food Nor Dessert. By representing the shark as an appetising dessert in unnatural colours, the artist has also highlighted the risk of food contamination posed by water pollution.

Xia Heng’s To Poseidon. The sculpture is reminiscent of a toy, subverting the serious themes expressed through its materiality.

Li Hui’s Tsunami. The power of the tsunami and wrath of nature are explored through the sense of fragmentation and destructive energy that emanates from this sculpture.

Liu Zining’s Us. The indignant and sorrowful expression of the shark’s eye is intended to provoke us into considering the effects of our violent attitude towards sharks, humanising the animal’s emotions and encouraging us to view them as more than a violent predator.

Yang Kai’s Seshyoumaru – We Are the World. The artist believes that human beings can once again connect with each other in an attempt to rescue and protect sharks – which would be an act of self-preservation as well.

The eldest son of property tycoon C. S. Hwang and one of Hong Kong’s richest men, Wong, who’s in his 60s, owns a sprawling art collection that includes the largest Salvador Dali collection outside of Spain, works by Western masters, imperial Chinese stone Buddhist carvings and over 10,000 contemporary Chinese artworks.

Many of his collections can be viewed across Parkview Group’s diverse properties and museums. The first of the latter, Parkview Green Museum, opened in Beijing in 2014. Recently in town to launch the group’s second museum, Parkview Museum at Parkview Square, he shows up for this interview wearing his heart for art on his sleeve, donning a conspicuously neon green vest in support of the museum’s environmentally themed exhibition, On Sharks And Humanity. “I will build museums wherever I go. All my properties will have a museum. It’s like smoking; I got to have one,” he says animatedly.

I don’t go overboard. I did before, now I behave. – George Wong, on his art purchases

Wong, who is worth an estimated US$1.09 billion (S$1.5 billion) according to Forbes, reckons he spends almost 90 per cent of his time today on art – working with artists, organising exhibitions and selecting art for his properties. “I’m bad for the public company,” he says with a laugh. “I spend so much to enjoy myself that I forget how to make money for somebody else.”

Yet, it’s clear that his properties have carved out a niche. Hotel Eclat, Beijing, one of Wong’s recent hotels, features museum-quality pieces by Dali and Andy Warhol and was recently voted the No. 1 hotel in China at the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice 2017.

“People ask me, ‘Why Dali? Why buy so many?’ Dali is probably one of the cheapest and the best you can get on the market. He has so much controversy. (Dali’s artwork) helps me in my buildings. That’s why I put Dali everywhere,” says Wong, on his art purchases.

But for the man who also owns restaurants and a wine collection numbering over 100,000 bottles, placing his artwork within his buildings has been a form of social contribution as well. “All my exhibitions are free. I don’t intend to take any money out of the exhibitions. I want the public to see what I can offer,” he says.

Currently on his plate are several developments in China. “There’s one in Guangzhou, which is an art project. The minute you see the building, you’ll freak out. There are artworks everywhere,” says Wong with a grin. “I’d also like to do a hotel in Singapore. I’m nosing around now,” he hints. But he has learnt not to overindulge. “I don’t go overboard. I did before, now I behave,” he says cheekily.

In the meantime, it’s clear Wong will continue making his own revolution in art. “I don’t have a 10-year plan. I don’t even have 10 years, I must say. In my very limited time, I want to stretch myself and do everything within my ability.”

(TOP IMAGE)
PHOTOGRAPHY FRENCHESCAR LIM
ART DIRECTION FAZLIE HASHIM

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