Steve Wynn Breaks Chinese Vase Record As Macau Looks To Boost Exhibitions

Macau’s Cultural Efforts Generally Overshadowed By Neighboring Hong Kong

Steve Wynn's prize vases will go on display in his new resort in 2015 (Image: Christie's)

Steve Wynn's prize vases will go on display in his new resort in 2015 (Image: Christie's)

Yet another Chinese art auction record was broken this weekend, as a representative for casino mogul Steve Wynn purchased a set of four Jiaqing-era vases at Christie’s in London for £8 million (US$12.8 million), well above their £1 million pre-sale estimate. As ARTINFO notes today, Wynn’s auction prizes are destined not for his personal stash, but for his planned Cotai Resort, which is scheduled to open on the Cotai Strip — Macau’s answer to the Las Vegas landmark — in 2015. From ARTINFO’s coverage:

This is not the first Chinese acquisition that Wynn has made for his resorts located in the Chinese territory of Macau. He began collecting Chinese art objects in 2006 with a record-setting purchase of a red porcelain vase from the Hongwu period (1368-1398) for HK78.5 million ($10 million US) at Christie’s in Hong Kong.

Wynn, who has said that he is committed to returning Chinese treasures to China, later donated the vase to the Macau Special Administrative Region, where it entered the permanent collection of the Cultural Affairs Bureau’s Macao Museum. Since then, many more objects have been added to the collection on display in the two Wynn resorts in Macau.

Wynn’s high-profile auction purchases might be good PR for his business, which he referred to last year as, for all intents and purposes, “a Chinese company” — but his efforts to bring Chinese art back to Macau brings up interesting questions about the city’s potential as a cultural destination. In recent years, as gambling revenue in Macau has surged (Rising some 58 percent last year to US$23.5 billion, according to the Macau Gaming Inspection & Coordination Bureau), the city has tried to boost its attractiveness as a cultural destination. While the number of arts events and exhibitions is gradually growing, and new resorts like Lui Che Woo’s Galaxy Macau have worked hard to entice multi-day tourism via non-gaming entertainment, efforts to foster more and better arts infrastructure in Macau have generally been overshadowed by those in neighboring Hong Kong.

So the question remains, as it has for the last couple of years, what will it take for Macau to become a more attractive cultural destination? Will it be driven more by the high-profile purchases of Macau business figures and collectors like Steve Wynn and Stanley Ho, both of whom have spent millions bringing Chinese art and antiques back to the former colony? Or will the responsibility lie on Macau’s young artists and curators to build a thriving cultural atmosphere virtually from the ground up?


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Art & Auction, Culture, Travel