The history of Hong Kong has been interwoven with economic and social genius, among those who have had it, the Hotung Family whose many generations have created significant collections of the finest examples of the Chinese and western arts. The Personal Collection of the late Sir Joseph Hotung, Part II, is a dispersal by Sotheby’s of some of the grand old man’s objects he lived with. Consider how they feel together. Collections in the west often reflect intellectual and financial attainment while the collections built by some Chinese and Japanese collectors achieve chi, what a dictionary explains as “vital energy that is held to animate the body.” This collection radiates this force. While there is little directly relevant to our collectible paper community, there aren’t many opportunities to observe this resonant approach to collecting so it’s a privilege to encounter it. Sotheby’s downloadable catalogue is linked at the end of this page.
Sotheby’s explains it this way.
“Sir Joseph Hotung (1930-2021) collected with an unusually powerful combination of both ‘heart’ and ‘eye’, allied to a strong intellectual focus on the meaning and importance of a piece of art. The decoration of his London home became, as a result, an elegant blend of a Chinese scholarly mind with the aesthetic of an English gentleman that might be said to describe Sir Joseph himself in life.”
While it’s an eastern idea, chi is certainly achieved in western collecting. I’ll refer to it as the resonant depth that is achieved when analogous categories radiate strength across collections. Single categories cannot. Ultimately they are lists. Superficially, it can be bought and highly skilled designers can create a passing impression of it but, in my view, it cannot be achieved until or unless the collector or collecting institution lives with the material for a long time. In the deepest sense the sum of the parts becomes much greater than the intellectual, emotional and the financial value of the parts and pieces individually. Such collections are the highest achievements.
With real estate, if the building design absorbs the strength of the site and if the landscaping absorbs and reflects the owner’s inner sense, such properties will always be remembered as their property, in the same way that some houses are remembered as Wright designs.
How is this possible? Books, images, documents, paintings, working devices, furnishings and contemporaneous music and playable instruments when they live together, when the collector exerts themselves to deeply understand the subject, recreating the inner tension of the era of their collecting focus, it’s possible to slowly edge into a personal nirvana connecting the ear, the eye and mind. It’s done, it’s doable and you’ll have grey hair when you have that lightning in a bottle.
Think about it. It is possible.
Here’s a link to the Hotung Sale: https://www.sothebys.com/en/digital-catalogues/hotung-%E4%BD%95%E6%9D%B1-part-ii-evening?locale=en
This personal collection is being offered online 2-13 December, 2022. 12:00 PM GMT.