The current Chi Mei Museum, located in Chi Mei’s headquarters in Greater Tainan, has amassed a rich collection of more than 10,000 objects — specializing in Western paintings and musical instruments — according to its recent estimate, inviting many art museums in Europe and talented musicians to borrow from the collection.
Prior to its establishment in 1992, the museum had begun to systematically assemble a wide ranging collection, including paintings from various periods of Western art history, musical instruments, worldwide antiques, ecological specimens and ancient weapons, since the year of 1988.
At present, the number of objects on display at the museum has amounted to 10,783 pieces, according to the latest museum statistics, with the number of celebrated violins collection exceeding 1,000.
The Chi Mei Cultural Foundation, set up by Chi Mei Corp president Hsu Wen-lung (許文龍) in 1977 for the establishment of the museum, boasts a private collection of at least six Stradivarius violins and several thousand-year-old violins that were passed down from a well-known Italian violinmaker.
The quantity and quality of the foundation’s violin collection could be proclaimed among the world’s finest, Hsu said with confidence.
Given the rarity of the items in the museum’s collection, many celebrated musicians and European art museums have eyed them for loans.
At the end of last year, violinist Su Shien-ta (蘇顯達) borrowed a 1709 Stradivarius violin called the “Viotti Marie Hall” and a bow used by the legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz in concerts from the museum.
The Graz salon Orchestra from Austria also borrowed some renowned violins from the museum during its tour in Taiwan last year.
Aside from loaning out its rare violin collection, the museum has also shipped some of its original artworks to the Ile Saint-Louis in Paris, France, for a restoration project in which it assisted the French island in restoring the sculpture of Theseus Fighting the Centaur Bianor inscribed on the monument of well-known French sculptor Antoine Louis Barye.
Donation has been one of the primary means for museums to enrich their collections, with some large-scale contribution of artworks in the past leaving a mark on history.
The Tate Modern in the UK changed its name from the National Gallery of British Art primarily due to a generous collection offered by sugar magnate Henry Tate in 1988. In 2008, London art dealer Anthony d’Offay also donated his collection of 725 artworks, valued at about NT$7.7 billion (US$256 million), to the gallery.
In Taiwan, a Taiwanese expatriate in Japan Peng Kai-dong (彭楷棟), in 2004 donated his bequests of more than 350 gilt bronze Buddhist sculptures, worth at least NT$400 million, to the National Palace Museum in the age of 93.
To demonstrate its gratitude at Peng’s generosity, the museum erected a building hall entitled “Kai-dong Hall” in his honor.
“I am Taiwanese, and the donation is made to my home country rather than to the National Palace Museum,” Peng was quoted as saying.
Translated by Stacy Hsu, Staff Writer