Culture / Art Republik

George Wong’s artistic legacy: Parkview Museum Singapore

George Wong, the founder of Parkview Museum Singapore, leaves an enduring legacy

Dec 04, 2017 | By Art Republik

Sandor Pinczehelyi, ‘Hammer and Sickle’. Image courtesy Solares Foundazione della arti, Parma.

The Parkview Museum Singapore, a private museum established by the Parkview Group, was part of a long-term endeavour by its executive chairman, the late George Wong, to share his art collection with the world. A sprawling 1,500 square metres and an impressive six metres in height, the museum has hosted three shows since its launch in March this year, including its latest exhibition, ’The Artist’s Voice’.

The son of property tycoon and group founder Hwang Chou-Shiuan, Wong had inherited not just his father’s business, but also his love for art. Continuing the family’s legacy of combining art with business — a vision demonstrated by Hwang in his real estate model — Wong established art spaces in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei, and also founded  Parkview Arts Action, an arts organisation that aims to raise awareness of critical environmental issues and inspire change.

George Wong.

In addition to that, works from Wong’s extensive art collection hang on the walls of his hotels and shopping malls, reflecting his strong belief in art as something to be shared. ART REPUBLIK had the privilege of speaking with the personable man in October. “The only thing I can’t share is my wife,” quipped Wong. “With art, you can’t just keep it to yourself, or store it in a warehouse. I want everybody to have part of my collection.” To that end, Parkview Museum Singapore, which hosts exhibitions with a focus on contemporary art, is open to the public free of charge.

The museum’s focus on contemporary art is not incidental. Wong expressed a special appreciation for the genre, and regularly interacted with and championed contemporary artists. “In contemporary art, when an artist paints something, there is a language in it. Each painting has a story to tell,” explained Wong. “It’s fascinating. Traditional art can be very beautiful, but they often hold no language of their own. They’re just pretty.”

Paolo Grassino, ‘Zero Series’. Image courtesy Parkview Museum Singapore.

Wong’s deep belief in the language of contemporary art is demonstrated in the museum’s latest exhibition, ‘The Artist’s Voice’, which spotlights the role of the artist in a modern-day society faced with crisis, disillusionment and instability. Highlighting themes relevant to the contemporary such as existentialism, ethics and anthropology, the exhibition visualises these realities through various mediums in contemporary art.

In the same vein, the museum’s first exhibition, ‘Of Sharks and Humanity’, keeping in line with the goals of Parkview Arts Action, addressed issues of the contemporary while tackling the widely controversial topic of shark finning as well as the impact of human activities on the ocean. “It’s an interesting topic because we humans kill and eat all kinds of things, such as chickens, pigs, and cows,” said Wong. “But in the case of sharks, it’s harming the ecosystem, and us in turn. It’s a topic that people need to be made aware of, and art can do that.”

Sharks & Humanity, Parkview Museum Singapore.

Wong also emphasised his belief in the relationship between art and architecture, a vision grounded in the group’s foundation in real estate. “I think art should be part of the landscape, part of livable space,” said Wong. “When we build something, we’re building something for the people who live and work there. It can’t just be a concrete frame with a few windows and an elevator.” He explained that even in his properties, he would change the artworks on display every now and then so that every piece gets its time in the limelight.

A serial collector, Wong’s thirst for collecting art manifested as a love that bordered on obsession. Recounting two instances in which he sold works from his collection, Wong expressed clear regret. “I ended up buying one of them back,” he recalled. “Every time I sell something, I regret it. So I decided that I wouldn’t sell my artworks anymore.” In addition to collecting art, the late billionaire also collected a multitude of other items, such as wine, watches, cigars and whiskey.

Wong revealed during the interview that there were multiple developments in progress, including a museum within a hotel in Taipei, with original art in each room, and also projects in Huizhou, Guangdong and Shanghai. “I’m a simple person,” said Wong. “I enjoy my life and I enjoy my work. I build things and if it doesn’t work, I take it apart. It’s a constant work in progress.” Wong’s legacy will live on in through his projects and his unwavering determination to share the best of art with the public.

Here are some highlights from ‘The Artist’s Voice’ exhibition, which will be on view at The Parkview Museum Singapore ’ from 18 November 2017 till 18 March 2018:

Marina Abramovic, ‘Pietà’. Image courtesy Collezione La Gaia, Busca.

Dennis Oppenheim, ‘Lightning Bolt Men’.

Paolo Grassino, ‘Zero Series’. Image courtesy Parkview Museum Singapore.

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This article was written by Nadya Wang and Ilyda Chua for Art Republik.

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