Pierre Chen, among the richest people in Taiwan, made his fortune through his electronics behemoth Yageo Corporation, which he founded in 1977. Unlike most billionaires (Forbes lists his net worth at $3.3 billion as of 2020), he didn’t wait several years before getting into the collecting game. He started the previous year, 1976, while still a student, with his first purchase, a wooden sculpture by the Hong Kong–based artist Cheung Yee priced at 25,000 Taiwanese dollars, which took him a year and a half to save, according to a 2014 profile in Sotheby’s Magazine. His purchases over the years have ranged from works by Thomas Struth and Gerhard Richter to pieces by Tan Ting-pho and Cai Guo-Qiang. He also owns seven works by Picasso, two works by Francis Bacon and ten works by Gerhard Richter, according to the Art Newspaper.
In January 2019, Chen also hinted about a major project on the horizon that spurred a flurry of inquires. “In the future,” he told the Art Newspaper, “I would like to build a space where I can display the art in the foundation’s collection and perhaps engage in some artistic initiatives and projects for the community.” The obvious question, then, was: will Pierre Chen be the next in a long line of the world’s top collectors to open a private museum? According to an email sent to ARTnews by a spokesperson for Chen, the answer is a resounding “no”—at least for the time being. The collection is still a private comfort for this businessman.
“My business changes very quickly,” he told Sotheby’s. “I am fighting everyday because there is always some new technology coming to the market. For me to have balance in my life, I need art and music.”
Asked to pick his favorite works in the collection, Chen told ARTnews that the two that rank at the very top are Cy Twombly’s Untitled (Rome), 1971, and Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud (1965). In May 2015, at Christie’s, New York, Chen dropped $26 million on Peter Doig’s painting Swamped (1990), setting a new auction record for the artist.