Swiss Philanthropist Uli Sigg donates Contemporary Chinese Art collection to West Kowloon Cultural District

Uli Sigg and Lars Nittve, Photo by Marco Annunziata

Switzerland’s former ambassador to China Uli Sigg, announced on Wednesday, June 13, his donation of 1,463 works of art to the future 60,000 square ft. M+ museum, slated to be completed in 2017. His collection, which he acquired over the past few decades, is comprised of work from 350 contemporary Chinese artists and will be a main component of the ambitious West Kowloon Cultural District project. Mr. Sigg took the audience through his beginnings as an art collector: “I became irrational enough to start collecting things; it was a self-assigned mission” to compile a comprehensive and historical collection of Chinese art.

Openly regretful he did not begin collecting earlier (while still viewing China’s artistic expansion of the 90s with a Western perspective), Mr. Sigg has more than redeemed himself with his philanthropic missives. In 1997, he established the Chinese Contemporary Art Award, as well as the Chinese Contemporary Art Art Critic Award in 2007. These awards were part of his ongoing mission to attract people from other countries to discover and help promote artistic debate in China – as well as give Chinese artists and professions the international attention they deserve. “If I could bring prominent people in the art world to China, I could make them see the creativity flourishing there”.

The West Kowloon Cultural District has agreed to purchase 47 works in addition to Mr. Sigg’s donation, most of which are unavailable anywhere in the art market and serve as important documents of China’s early artistic development. Included among the works are pieces from the No Name Group, The Stars, artists such as Wang Guangyi, Zhang Peili, Geng Jianyi, and Huang Yongping.

In regards to why Mr. Sigg chose Hong Kong and not a major city on mainland China, he explained that Hong Kong is already a world-class city and the current art hub of Asia. He was drawn to Hong Kong because of the development of the West Kowloon Cultural district, an expansive cultural project that will establish major facilities for art, dance, music, and other public events. To add to this plethora of cultural investment, Art Basel’s Hong Kong edition will open in May of 2013. Mr. Sigg also cited the constraints that exist on mainland China as a reason for his choosing Hong Kong, explaining that “Contemporary art is more a European paradigm of doing away with the past and radically. This is not what China is officially prepared to do right now”.