This article first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of World Gaming magazine.
Wynn Macau CEO and renowned art investor Steve Wynn has paid a world record £8 million for an incredibly rare set of four Chinese porcelain baluster vases.
Innovative gaming, top-end food and luxury accommodation are all celebrated elements of the Macau experience. But this flair for entertaining aside, many casino operators are also making significant contributions to the preservation of Chinese culture.
The Macau government actively encourages casinos to be more than gaming havens. Taking a leaf out of Las Vegas’ book, Macau is moving towards offering a more rounded holiday experience, instead of merely a place to gamble.
Increasingly, many casinos are investing in China’s history by acquiring priceless art and cultural artifacts. For example, some of the pieces on public display in the foyers of the Grand Lisboa would not be out of place in any of the world’s best museums.
In July this year, Wynn Macau purchased a set of extremely rare baluster vases. Specifically targeted for their historical significance, Wynn Macau has welcomed these beautiful new acquisitions as part of the company’s ongoing cultural commitment to China. The set of four ormolu-mounted Chinese porcelain baluster vases were purchased at Christie’s in London at auction for £7,993,250 (almost US$13 million), more than double the previous world record price for porcelain of this type.
The vases represent an invaluable part of Chinese culture, dating from the Jiaqing period (1796 to 1820). The pieces are distinctive in scale, quality and number, with matched pairs being rare. According to Wynn Macau, matched quartets of this age and size are practically impossible to find in one collection. The only known similar example resides in the collection of the British Royal Family.
The acquisition was inspired by Steve Wynn’s ongoing commitment to bring artistic treasures to Macau. In 2009 Wynn purchased a Ming glazed copper-red pear-shaped vase that dated back to Emperor Hongwu’s reign (1368 to 1398). This was donated to the Macau Special Administrative Region and resides in the permanent collection of the Cultural Affairs Bureau’s Macau Museum.
“We are delighted to be able to return these extraordinary examples of Chinese culture to the People’s Republic of China, and place them on display in the city of Macau, which we are so fortunate to be a part of,” said Mr. Wynn.
Other important examples of historic Chinese art, including ceramics, cloisonné and textile arts can be seen in the collections currently within Wynn Macau and Encore at Wynn Macau. The recent purchase of the baluster vases is sure to take centre stage in this impressive collection. However, the public will not be able to enjoy these pieces for some time, as they are earmarked for display at Wynn’s new Cotai resort scheduled for completion in 2015.