A Family Affair
Tatler Hong Kong|March 2020
Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin and his son, Arthur, are opening a gallery in Hong Kong this month. Here is how they hope to shake up the city’s cultural scene
Coco Marett

There have been two constants in the life of Dominique de Villepin: travel and art.

He was born in Morocco and spent years in Venezuela and the US even before he attended university in France, where he would go on to a distinguished career in the Foreign Ministry that, beginning in 1980, included posts in Washington DC and India, ultimately becoming the nation’s prime minister from 2005 to 2007 under president Jacques Chirac. Throughout all that time, he notes reflectively, “I was always fascinated with contemporary art, with searching for new ways of looking at life.

“As a diplomat, I always thought artists had a very interesting view of the world. Wherever I went, I sought out artists to see how they felt and understood things, and I always found this to be very enriching.”

During his time in politics, Dominique surrounded himself with painters and poets. He was fascinated by the Beat Generation, taking a particular interest in vagabonds and poets such as Jack Kerouac. His son, Arthur, one of three children, remembers Dominique’s creative crowd of friends fondly, having grown up with artists such as Anselm Kiefer, Pierre Soulages and Zao Wou-ki sitting around the dinner table.

“Growing up surrounded by these people, I realised the importance and value of learning to look at life from different angles,” says Arthur, who has lived in Hong Kong for the past 10 years. “That opportunity to understand another’s perspective is an opportunity, a richness. It is a way to empower oneself.” Dominique chimes in: “In life learn art, in artwork learn life,” quoting German poet Friedrich Hölderlin.

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