Colour Harmony: Andrew Yuen’s Evolution From Boyhood Treasure Hunter To Guardian Of Culture

By Joseff Musa
Jun 02, 2023

It is a typical rainy, grey May day in Hong Kong, but inside Andrew Yuen’s luxurious Central apartment, clashes of gold, silver and everything in between envelop the cosy space. Silverware and sculptures from his many travels around the globe are gracefully displayed with personal touches like portraits of his parents and son, Anthony.

Among the many roles he has inhabited over a long and fulfilling career – Deputy Managing Director of Dayton Group, CoChairman of the Hong Kong Cancer Fund, Vice-President of the Society of the Academy for Performing Arts and Chairman of Le French May, which led to the title of Chevalier (Knight) of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, awarded by the French government – is a new commitment as Director of the Board of the Hong Kong Palace Museum.

“The thing about this new role is that I didn’t apply for it. I was appointed,” he says humbly, shrugging his shoulders as if it is some small matter. “Why me? Well, maybe because of my art collection?”

andrew yuen

Indeed, Yuen is a long-time supporter and champion of the arts, all types of it, from visual to performing. His fascination with all things artistic was ignited at a very young age when he and his father would go “treasure hunting” – as young Andrew would call it – in antique shops along Hollywood Road and at auction houses as one of their weekend activities. Despite having pioneered the electronics industry in the city, his parents raised him and his four siblings to be self-effacing. A sensibility that he applies when bringing up a teenager of his own.

“I am always proud to say that I have the best parents. They just let us do what we want to do in life and explore whatever we like. But I think they also have this magic to bring us all back together. All five of us are now living here in Hong Kong,” he says, laughing.

Kendy Enterprise, the empire which Jack and Daisy Yuen built, was founded in 1958 as one of the early makers of transistor radios. Dayton Industrial was born in 1972 and nurtured into one of the world’s leading manufacturers of micro-electronic products such as heart-rate monitors, altimeter watches, e-bike HMI, sensors and parts for smartphones.

andrew yuen

Shades of Success

“I feel very much at home when I am at the [Hong Kong Palace] museum. I could just talk about art all day,” says Yuen, grinning as he sips water from one of his collectable china cups. Later, on our way to the photo shoot location, he divulges that he and now Academy Award-winner Michelle Yeoh are good friends, and he was close to Princess Diana.

“These people are my contemporaries, not just in terms of age, but also as fans of the arts. However, my parents advised me that in order to look young and feel young, I must expose myself to younger connections. This way, I can keep up with change and not be stuck in my comfort zone.” he says.

He wears a traditional changsan, noting that he needs a birdcage and a fan to fully embrace the look. It is evident that while he is open to the current landscape, he still pays homage to his roots and appreciates his own culture. As a newly minted museum director, Yuen reflects on the evolution of the arts scene, particularly in Hong Kong.

“The hit musical Hamilton is a perfect example that art is inclusive and ever-evolving. Musicals now explore pop and rap styles of music. We really have to make art accessible everywhere, that’s the most important part. Hopefully, I can play a role in that. That’s why we are more ambitious than ever with the line-up for the French May Arts Festival.” he says.

He also shares that beneath the foundations of the Hong Kong Arts Centre in Wan Chai is a time capsule put there by six people – one of whom just happens to be him.

andrew yuen

Hues of Happiness

Yuen’s vision for the Hong Kong Palace Museum vibrates with colour, movement and textures – just like a work of art. He says: “There are only three Palace museums in the world – in Beijing, Taipei and now in Hong Kong. So I hope that the one in Hong Kong will be the bridge between the other two “Palace-tinians” – between China and Taiwan.”

As a seasoned art collector, he reiterates that it is important to do your own research before purchasing. When you don’t know the market, it’s easy to fall for things just because they are buzzed about, especially on social media. “I recommend learning about art and artists online so the choices become your own,” he explains.

The adage that new collectors should spend a year looking and not buying rings truer than ever. While that may seem extreme, taking time to develop your eye is essential. Like many other things in life, it should be quality over quantity, too. He encourages art lovers to invest in fewer pieces that are of higher quality. Art is, after all, a purchase for life, so it is better to collect slowly with focus rather than to rush and take a more decorative approach. “Art should be something that talks to you,” he adds.

Also Read: Your Guide to Purchasing an Art Piece That You Won’t Regret

He is clearly very proud of the Hong Kong Palace Museum, and on a smaller, though still substantial level, the art in his home. His collection delves deep into a style and an artist through gorgeous masterpieces. Works of art, more generally speaking, impact society, fostering economic, racial and social justice and educational advancement.

andrew yuen

His own Covid chronicle was both impactful and life-changing. Yuen caught the initial strain of the virus during the frightening pre-vaccine era. As many others who pull through serious illness would attest, it made him appreciate life even more than ever.

“Other than material things, I think what matters most is that we collect memories – memories that are precious yet priceless,” he says. “I am thankful that I always have the chance to be surrounded by family and friends. Above all the things here that glimmer and shimmer, the memories that I have, and am still collecting, will always be my number-one prized possessions.”

And so, like a rainbow in the sky, Andrew Yuen continues to colour his life with pure bliss and happiness.

Interview & Art Direction: Joseff Musa Photographer: Jack Law Fashion Stylist: Jhoshwa Ledesma Videographer: Jack Fontanilla Hair & Makeup: Heti Tsang