The official line is that the sale will “benefit numerous art institutions and research scholars”. In the past T.T. Tsui has been a very generous benefactor to several museums around the world (for details, see The Art Newspaper No. 57, March 1996, p. 42), including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Empress Palace Museum in Singapore and the Victoria and Albert Museum to whom he donated £1.25 in 1991 for the redisplay of the Chinese gallery.
Mr Tsui’s collection has been formed in the last ten to twelve years. He has bought at auction and through the top dealers world-wide, often paying top prices. About 4,000 pieces were displayed until recently in the Tsui Museum of Art, located in Hong Kong’s old Bank of China building which also houses David Tang’s China Club. The V&A has had a small changing exhibition of works from the collection , but these have now been withdrawn.
Mr Tsui has built up a large fortune since he moved to Hong Kong from the mainland in the Seventies. He has always had good relations with the Chinese, especially with the army and its manufacturing branch, Norinco. His third and present wife is the daughter of a prominent Chinese general. Most of Mr Tsui’s investments are held through the CNT group. Among other assets, he owns the Hong Kong bus company, CityBus, the China Harbour View Hotel and China Paint Holdings Ltd.
One can only speculate as to why he is selling his outstanding collection which has brought him international recognition and acclaim so soon after acquiring it. Unlike many prominent Hong Kong collectors who are moving their collections out of China, he should have nothing to fear from the Chinese government with which he has such close associations, but he may be under pressure to liquidate his extensive assets in Chinese art for financial reasons.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'T.T. Tsui'