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Hong Kong home for Chinese art trove

By Wang Jie (Shanghai Daily)

09:21, July 25, 2012

When the world's biggest and most important collection of Chinese contemporary art is donated to a yet-to-be-opened Hong Kong museum, eyebrows are raised. Wang Jie looks at the issues.

When Uli Sigg, collector of the world's largest and most important collection of contemporary Chinese art, wants a museum to house his acquisitions - and he wants to donate around 1,500 works - one would think there would be avid takers scrambling worldwide for the mind-boggling gift.

And there were, but not many museums can accommodate and afford such a munificent prize. It would mean, in effect, building a new museum but the minimum cost of running even a modest one is said to be around US$20 million a year and Sigg's gargantuan collection entails astronomical costs.

Though he talked to European museums, the super collector and former Swiss ambassador to China finally decided he wanted his definitive collection displayed where the Chinese audience could access all the works across all genres covering more than 30 years - without restriction.

Then the options narrowed.

After discussions with museums on the Chinese mainland, including those in Shanghai and Shenzhen, Sigg announced on June 12 that he would donate 1,463 works, the majority of the collection, and sell another 27 to a museum yet to be established, M+ Museum set to open in 2017 in Hong Kong's West Kowloon Cultural District.

The ambitious district of 17 venues on Victoria Harbor will definitely establish Hong Kong as an international art hub. It will showcase Chinese and Asian arts, design, architecture and film from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Sigg's collection will be a cornerstone of the museum's collection. An agreement further states that around 500 works from the collection will be displayed every year in the 5,000-square-meter exhibition hall.

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