Dec 04 2017

Obituary: George Wong (1952–2017)

by Brady Ng

GEORGE WONG, Hong Kong art collector and billionaire passed away on December 2 at the age of 65. Photo by Billy Kung for ArtAsiaPacific. 

On December 2, Hong Kong billionaire and art collector George Wong passed away at age 65. Wong was known for his collection of over 10,000 contemporary Chinese artworks, Western classical works, as well as for his collection of Salvador Dalí paintings—the largest outside of Spain. He was the chairman of Parkview Group, a conglomerate of companies with a portfolio in real estate, hotels, food and beverages, as well as arts and cultural development. Parts of his extensive collection can be seen all over Asia at various Parkview properties, including at Parkview Museum, Singapore; Parkview Green Museum, FangCaodi, Beijing; Parkview Green Art Taipei; and Parkview Art Hong Kong, which all also host curated, thematic exhibitions.

Wong studied architecture in the United Kingdom, and then was stationed in Taipei for four years, where he worked for his father’s construction company. After that stint, he returned to Hong Kong, and in 1981, Wong and his three brothers bought a plot of land to develop a residential complex, called Parkview. A year after the completion of Parkview, Wong started buying art; in an interview with ArtAsiaPacific in 2016, Wong said, “I never had any money in my pocket until 1990, and once I did I started to collect. First for our hotels and then personally for myself.”

That collection would eventually include classical European paintings, Chinese ink paintings on scrolls, bronzes, Chinese porcelain, as well as contemporary art. One of his most prized possessions was Girl in the Woods (1882) by Vincent van Gogh, a small painting that carried a price tag of GBP 1 million. Wong would find it difficult let go of any part of his collection: in 2015, Chinese auction house Poly Auction approached Wong and said that a Fan Zeng ink painting that he had acquired in 2008 for HKD 600,000 (USD 76,800) could fetch HKD 15 million (USD 1.9 million). When it hit the auction block, Wong ended up buying it back for himself for HKD 14.5 million (USD 1.86 million).

In 2014, along with two Italian dealers, Wong launched the commercial gallery Parkview Art Hong Kong, showcasing the works of Gutai artists, Zao Wou-ki, Mao Lizi, photographer Gloria Wong and German artist John Franzen.

Wong was also an honorary professor at the Nanjing University of the Arts and a research fellow at the National Museum of China.

Brady Ng is the reviews editor of ArtAsiaPacific.

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