ARTcollectors' in Asia

Interview with Mr. Uli Sigg, One of the Top Contemporary Art Collectors


Category: art fair, interview

We also had an interview with Mr. Uli Sigg, one of the top contemporary art collectors who mainly collects Chinese artworks.


─Can you tell us about M+ museum that opens in 2017?

Uli:My collection will be the core for M+: there are about 1,500 works. So we will have a large opening exhibition in 2017.

─Why did you decide to donate your collection to the museum?

Uli: I collected like an institution would because I saw no collection of Chinese contemporary art in the mainland. I thought, if nobody does it, then I will do it! I discussed in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong where to locate the collection, but it wasn’t possible to do that in Beijing and Shanghai. So I decided to do it in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is, of course, also China. And I think that huge Chinese public in mainland will go to Hong Kong for M+. Already over 40 million people go to Hong Kong from mainland in a year. So it’s going to be a good place for international audience and mainland audience.

─So you really like arts. What inspired you at first to get interested in arts?

Uli: My family had some artworks painted in 19th century on the wall, but I didn’t even notice them! But I had a friend who took me to a contemporary art exhibition and got interested in art. I felt fresh and this is something for me.

─You are good friends with artists as well, which is really important.

Uli: It is really important and I had no other way because no galleries existed at the time, so I had to go to the place artists live, also because I had to learn more about China.

─Do you buy other contemporary arts beside Chinese ones?

Uli: Yes, I always also buy other arts such as Japanese, Korean, Indonesian and Western. I’ve got a big photography series by Lieko Shiga. I didn’t collect famous ones though. I think I have more women artists’.

─Why did you start to collect Chinese contemporary arts at the first place?

Uli: I was a collector of contemporary art since I was young. And in 1979, I went to China for the first time. So for me, it was natural to look around the new environment and what the contemporary artists were doing there. Also, I realized that I didn’t know anything about the society or the country. I was only allowed to see such a narrow part of the reality. So I hoped contemporary art gives me a different side of Chinese society. But it wasn’t really possible; my idea didn’t work because there was no real contemporary art at that time and it was very difficult to find.

─But Chinese economy and art scene has changed a lot since then.

Uli: China has become like a different continent. That’s how art is produced. There is a delivery of western art in 1979, artists created their works with small canvas imitating western artists. Today we can see large Chinese artworks, which are tremendous.


─By the way, what do you think about Art Stage this year so far?

Uli: I think it is getting better each year. And I remember at the first time, in each booth there was one painting just next to another. But now many spaces are curated . So I think we can see what education process of Asian galleries has got.

─Galleries say that while Hong Kong is more international, Singapore focuses on Asia. What do you think about it as a collector?

Uli: It’s true. Singapore focuses on South East Asia; otherwise they may not be able to compete Art Basel Hong Kong. So I think it’s wise to focus on their core of their strength. Each fair has to give itself each special profile; otherwise they’ll be all the same and even disappear.

─What do you expect Art Basel Hong Kong to do?

Uli: They must find their place, which is more Asian. They cannot do another Basel in Hong Kong.

─I see. We hope to see you in Hong Kong next time then. Thank you very much!

Uli: Thank you!

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