Investments; Real estate development
Since the early 1990s, the Hong Kong–born real-estate developer Edmund Cheng, who is the deputy chairman and deputy managing director of Wing Tai Holdings, has been a steady—albeit largely inconspicuous—force behind Singapore’s contemporary art scene. From 2005 to 2013, chairman of the country’s National Arts Council. In this role, Cheng championed the first Singapore Biennale in 2006, which carried the theme “Belief,” and oversaw the creation of Singapore’s contemporary art district, Gillman Barracks. And in 2018, was appointed chairman of Singapore Art Museum.
Additionally, many of the country’s public and housing initiatives were passion projects of Cheng, who studied architecture at Carnegie Mellon University. Moved by Paul Rudolph’s designs, Cheng commission the influential 20th-century American architect to recreate his striking Bauhaus-influenced aesthetic in Asia—most notably Hong Kong’s Lippo Centre, the Colonnade in Singapore, and the Wisma Dharmala Tower in Jakarta.
In 1991, as president of the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore, he lobbied fellow Singapore developers to commit a percentage of their budget to commissioning public art projects. The pitch was a tough sell, but he found greater success elsewhere. Visitors to VivoCity, Singapore’s largest destination mall, can view seven installations, including Choi Jeong Hwa’s massive Flower Tree (2003) and the 13-meter-high Snowman (2006) by German artist collective Inges Idee. “For me, art is part of daily life,” he told ArtAsiaPacific. “If art can help us learn, move us emotionally or even tap distant memories, it serves a purpose.” Cheng, however, is tight-lipped regarding the contents of his personal collection, though sources told ARTnews that he has a considerable holding of contemporary Asian and international contemporary art.