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Man on a Mission

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Art enthusiast Daniel L.K. Ching not only collects Chinese paintings for their economic potential. he pursues the hobby to preserve important pieces of Chinese history.
[Photo of Chinese Painting]
Daniel L.K. Ching, president and general manager of Arizona Marketing Corp., strongly believes Chinese paintings are a worthy investment. It’s easy to believe the man when he has, so far, acquired over 600 of them. (He also owns dozens more from Western and Filipino artists, two of the latter are by Romeo Enriquez and used in San Miguel calendars ca. 60’s.)

The 45-year-old Ching’s massive collection began to take shape only two and a half years ago when he and his wife visited Vietnam. There the couple chanced upon rows upon rows of art shops in Ho Chi Minh City, selling imitation paintings of Rembrandt, Picasso, and Van Gogh. He bought his first art piece there, a painting copied from a photograph of a child carrying rice stalks.

“We also visited an art gallery. I was really amazed at the price difference between the copies and the originals. I began to ask myself: What made the originals expensive? There are a lot of good artists, but not all became famous,” Ching points out. “Not all works become valuable. My curiosity, as far as art [is concerned] started, and I wanted to learn more.” Ching’s ancestors, like those of many Chinese Filipinos, come from Fujian province.

Proper Justice

The affable University of Santo Tomas alumnus relies heavily on books and the Internet to gather information on his targeted purchases, which come mostly from eBay and various art galleries in Manila.

His latest buys are a Wang Shimin painting and a charcoal sketch of a nude lady done by Xu Beihong.

Ching admits he has made mistakes in the past. But he says appraisal reports indicate his winnings
outweigh losses.

The Manila-born father of three is also diligent about having his art pieces authenticated to get “proper justice” from his children. The sentiment is born of his observations and research on valuable Chinese art pieces that were unfairly sold at much lower prices, considering their significance in Chinese culture.

“I saw the consequences of collectors failing to have their pieces appraised. Their loved ones failed to realize their true value. It is our duty [as collectors] to see to it that they will continue to be appreciated by our loved ones, even if we are no longer here.”

Precious Finds

Ching shifted his focus more towards Chinese art pieces because of their economic potential. It’s a simple case of supply and demand. More Chinese people now, due to their newfound wealth, are eager to buy paintings. It is Ching’s distinct advantage that he can converse in English and Chinese, as it is very useful in buying art from Chinese and Western collectors.

A big chunk of his extensive art collection came from a Canadian school principal. The man wanted to unload art pieces he acquired from Chinese families who migrated to Canada.

Ching says his most precious find is a painting of a certain C.J. Guo. The painting, which features an emperor atop a horse surrounded by his young prince, soldiers, and attendants, hangs on Ching’s office wall.

Why is it his favorite? “Sabi ko lang kasi maganda tingnan. (I just thought it was beautiful to look at.) It’s the emperor riding his horse so for me, as a businessman, hopefully I could be like that,” he says jokingly.

Another favorite piece is “Lonely Heart” by Wang Yidong. Hanging on the wall of his three-story loft, the oil painting is a portrait of a young girl garbed in fiery red, whose eyes convey hope and expectation despite her apparent loneliness. “Maybe after she was left by her suitor,” Ching quips.

He also admires the tiger paintings of Zhao Shao’ang and Gao Jianfu. Done on traditional rice
paper, they show the artist’s mastery of manipulating a simple medium—black ink showing texture and depth—which continues to amaze the avid collector.

Paintings by Picasso, Marc Chagall, and an old Chinese stamp said to have belonged to a Manchu
princess (a certain Princess Deling) are also part of his collection.

When asked if he could possess any art piece from anywhere in the world, Ching says, “I would like to change the word ‘own’ to ‘make’.” The art piece that matters most to all of us is our children.
If I am successful as a father, my children would be my masterpieces. All of the things I collect mean nothing.”

 

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