Cover The He Art Museum in Shunde, Guangdong designed by Tadao Ando. (© HEM)

Tycoon He Jianfeng is exhibiting his extensive art collection in a striking new museum designed by architect Tadao Ando

The first museum dedicated to celebrating art from southern China is opening to the public on October 1, 2020.

The He Art Museum (HEM) in Shunde, Guangdong is the brainchild of He Jianfeng, president of investment firm Infore Holding Group. He is the eldest son of billionaire He Xiangjian, the founder of the Midea Group, an appliances manufacturer that is China's largest exporter of air conditioners.

He commissioned acclaimed boxer-turned-architect Tadao Ando to design HEM. Osaka-based Ando has designed more than 80 museums around the world, including the subterranean Chichu Art Museum Museum on the Japanese island of Naoshima and the boxy, minimalist Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas. For HEM, Ando designed a sleek, sprawling disc crafted from his signature material of creamy concrete.

The striking building will house the He family's extensive collection of art from Lingnan—the region of southern China that encompasses the coastal provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan—including ink-on-paper pieces by legendary artists Gao Qifeng, Gao Jianfu and Chen Shu-ren.

“As our family collection grew, we realised it is important for our hometown, especially for the next generations, to see how our culture has developed,” He tells Tatler. “As the collection evolves, it continues to reveal the diverse visions and cultural phenomena from the late Qing Dynasty to the present. These are critical paths to establishing a global understanding of Guangdong heritage, which is very [important] to me.”

Lingnan paintings will not be the only art on display. Also on show are works of Chinese modern art—among them a dramatic seascape by Zao Wou-ki and an abstract painting by Zhang Daqian—and pieces by international stars. The latter include one of Damien Hirst’s signature butterfly mosaics, a monumental spotted pumpkin sculpture by Yayoi Kusama and a large, erotic painting by Pablo Picasso. He bought the latter work, Hommes et femmes nu (1968), at a Christie’s auction in London last year for US$15.6 million.

When travel restrictions loosen, He hopes that people from around the Greater Bay Area will travel to the museum, including people from Hong Kong. “It is a day trip from Hong Kong, either you drive, or take the high-speed rail and then take a taxi to us. Arrive for lunch and then spend the afternoon in the museum—I believe there is a real appetite for this.”  

Pick up a copy of the October issue of Tatler Hong Kong—on newsstands on October 5—for a full interview with He Jianfeng