Friday, May 9, 2014, 09:15
Tai-pan praises growth of HK’s art scene
By Timothy Chui in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s art scene has grown from virtually nothing in the 1960s to “one of the world’s truly international art centers,” Hong Kong-based luxury retailing tai-pan Robert Warren Miller said on Thursday.

An avid art collector, the co-founder of the Duty Free Shopping Group has given a HK$100 million arts fund to the people of Hong Kong to celebrate his 49th wedding anniversary with wife Chantal.

The long time patron of the arts made the hefty donation, one of the largest by a single donor in Hong Kong in support of the arts, to the Asia Society to support Hong Kong’s emerging talent.

“It is our wish that this gift will be used to open a window so that local people and students can develop their understanding and enjoyment of art,” he told reporters at the Asia Society on Thursday.

“In Hong Kong 50 years ago, the arts and culture scene barely existed. But now it has taken on a great new dimension with the government, private sector and arts groups working together to make art a part of everyone’s life,” Miller said.

“There is an important place in the community for Hong Kong-based artists to play a more significant role in the global art dialogue taking place everywhere,” he said.

The Millers will be heavily involved in how the fund is used. They will help promote local artists who will be commissioned for major works. They will also bring in overseas talent to engage with locals through performances and exhibitions.

Asia Society Executive Director Alice Mong said the city should expect the unexpected in programs supported by the fund. This suggests the money may be used to support experimental and emerging fields of performance and visual arts as well as more traditional offerings.

In recognition of the Millers’ support of the arts and the Asia Society, the non-profit organization focused on raising awareness about Asian politics, business, education, arts, and culture through education has renamed its 9 Justice Drive gallery, the Chantal Miller Gallery. It is Hong Kong’s second-oldest surviving colonial building.

“I’ve lived in Hong Kong for 54 years, came here in 1960s, it’s been my home ever since,” Miller said.

“My business is here, my children grew up here, I married my wife 49 years ago today, over these years, we’ve seen incredible changes which have taken place here in Hong Kong,” he added.

“The center of the world is moving to Asia. It’s very impressive,” he said.

The Millers were also given a monograph by contemporary Chinese artist Xu Bing written in his signature Square World Calligraphy style.

“China has spent decades learning from the West,” Xu told a gathering of young art students gathered at the Asia Society.

“It is time for China to share what it has learned and created with the rest of the world,” he said.