Aug 30 2017

Obituary: David Tang (1954–2017)

by Julee WJ Chung

Art collector and entrepreneur DAVID TANG passed away on August 29 at the age of 63 after a long battle with cancer. Photo by Ann Woo for ArtAsiaPacific.

Art collector and entrepreneur David Tang, renowned for redefining the Hong Kong luxury clothing industry in the 1990s, passed away at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London on August 29 at the age of 63.

With a keen eye for visual art, Tang bought his first painting by a top-tier ink artist, Zhang Daqian, in the mid-1980s. He also supported avant-garde artists such as Zhang Xiaogang, Yu Youhan and Wang Guangyi before they came to prominence on the global art stage.

Tang was born in Hong Kong and educated in England, studying philosophy at King’s College London and law at Cambridge University, where he cultivated his quintessential Oxbridge tongue. He started his diverse career with a short tenure at the solicitor firm of his grandfather Tang Shiu Kin, who had founded the Kowloon Motor Bus Company in Hong Kong, before quickly joining Swire Pacific Limited in search of his own trajectory as a businessman. From there, he began to focus on his many passions for bringing people together.

Always enjoying the sweeter things in life, he established the flagship location of the esteemed China Club in 1991, setting up shop on the top three floors of the old Bank of China building in the Hong Kong’s Central business district. He later extended the club and restaurant’s presence to Beijing in 1996 and Singapore in 2001. The dining spaces were executed in an Art Deco style reminiscent of the old Shanghai glamor of the 1930s, complete with paintings by the likes of Liu Wei and Zheng Fanzhi, showcasing Tang’s exquisite collection.

In 1994, Tang established Shanghai Tang, the clothing and lifestyle brand that he would become internationally recognized for. He had also worked for the Financial Times as a weekend columnist under the name Agony Uncle, answering readers’ questions with quick-witted responses and essays; for the cigar lover, no topic was ever too boring or taboo, and he entertained queries on a wide range of subjects, including bulletproof cars and sociopolitical critiques. In 2008, he was appointed as Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his long-standing philanthropic work.

Tang had been battling cancer for some time, and had foreseen his death when he received news of his deteriorating health earlier in August. Although he had organized a last “farewell party” to celebrate life and say his final goodbyes to close friends and family at the Dorchester Hotel in London, he passed away before he could have his last hurrah.

View of the interiors of DAVID TANG’s China Club, Hong Kong, which he established in 1991.

Julee WJ Chung is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor.

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