Tatler's Guide to Building Your Own Museum
Tatler Hong Kong|March 2020
There’s no better way to ensure your lasting legacy than establishing an eponymous private art museum. Here’s what it takes to enshrine your name among the Guggenheims, Fricks and Gettys of the world
Christian Barker

A rendering of the Fosun Foundation, a nonprofit space in Shanghai launched by collector Jenny Jinyuan Wang.

Book from the Sky by Xu Bing, installed at Museum Macan in Jakarta, which is owned by Haryanto Adikoesoemo

You see it in the fevered bidding at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Bonhams and Phillips. It’s palpable in the sprint to pick up the choicest seven- and eight-figure works at Art Basel Miami Beach (an acquisitive frenzy known as “Billionaires’ Black Friday”). Today, no ultra-high-net-worth individual worth their salt—or their Forbes rich list position—would be without an extensive collection of trophy art.

The competition for the most sought-after pieces is fierce, but for the winners, the question remains: how best to display the spoils of victory? It would be a shame to stash the stuff in bonded storage or hang it in one of your homes. Gazing with cat-that-got-the-cream satisfaction upon hard-won booty from Picasso, Richter, Koons, Freud, Hockney, Hirst, Bacon and Basquiat, more and more collectors are coming to the conclusion that their museum-quality art deserves to be housed... in a museum.

There’s always the option of donating a collection or part thereof to an existing institution—most will happily name a gallery in the donor’s honour if the bequest is generous enough. The true philanthropist, however, will insist upon building (and naming) a museum all their own. With charity and goodwill, they’ll set out to create a place where their rarefied peer group and the masses alike might come to marvel at the collector’s good taste, resourcefulness and largesse. If you’re inspired to follow this philanthropic path, here’s how...

STEP 1: CURATE YOUR COLLECTION

Beside Myself (2017) by James Turrell, installed at MONA in Tasmania; Homme et femme nus (1968) by Pablo Picasso, soon to be on show at the new He Museum in Shunde, Guangdong

“Someone who’s looking to establish a gallery will have doubtless been collecting for a number of years; they’ll have a history,” says Benjamin Hampe, consultant and curator for the ASEAN Secretariat and its gallery, and a private advisor with Arndt Art Agency. Hampe believes the collector should resist the urge to simply buy big-name “blue chip” art and, instead, follow their tastes, exploring and supporting work by rising artists.

“If a museum is a personal enterprise, it should be reflective of the person who is supporting the institution,” he says. “A really good example is the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Tasmania. That museum is truly a reflection of its founder, David Walsh, and his personality—and it is quite a personality. Visitors get a sense of why Walsh collected the works, and that’s really interesting.”

The founder and CEO of contemporary art and design consultancy The Artling, Talenia Phua Gajardo, also advocates freethinking. When a collector is accumulating the art they’ll display in their private museum, she says, “Generally it starts where their passions lie and there are no set rules. That’s the beauty about private museums—owners create their own realities.”

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