Interview with Richard Hoon: The founder of Centre for Fathering shares about his love for art

Richard Hoon

father first, art collector second

A tour of Richard Hoon’s airy bungalow in the Braddell Heights area quickly reveals he not only loves art, but has an astute eye for collecting it. Pieces by icons like Picasso, Dali and Miró line his gallery-like home, as well as works by homegrown masters like Tan Swie Hian, and up-and-coming Southeast Asian superstars like the Philippines’ Ronald Ventura – just to name a few.

When he’s not scouring galleries for new acquisitions, Hoon specialises in the art of matchmaking top executives with the right companies. “My forte is reading people, getting to know them over time. I’m not looking for perfection, but your weaknesses cannot overcome your strengths,” he says. “There’s no point getting a team of all strikers. You have to pick talent that can work in tandem.”

I bought my first piece of art 30 years ago, a print by American artist Michael Heizer. I’ve lost count of how many works I have, probably about 300. In my home, there are more than 100 pieces, the rest are in storage. My main interest as a collector is in Surrealism. A room filled with art is a room filled with thought. In a great piece of art, you discover something new each time you look at it, and you can derive a lifetime of pleasure from this.

When I was growing up in the 1970s, art was a compulsory subject in Victoria School. So I painted, but never took it seriously. Collecting started as an interest and has become a passion, almost an obsession. Singapore has so many interesting places now where you can check out art, like Gillman Barracks, Artspace@Helutrans and the auction houses’ previews.

When I see something memorable and I can afford it, I buy it with no regrets. I have never sold any of the artworks I’ve bought, but I have given some away as gifts. I hope to pass my collection on to my three daughters.

I’ve never bought a piece of art for investment purposes. One of the artists I collect is Roberto Matta, a surrealist from the same generation as Picasso and Dali. I first encountered his work at a gallery in San Francisco while my wife and kids were shopping, and I ended up spending more money on his paintings than what our whole holiday cost. Five years later, the gallery owner called to tell me the artist had died and the value of his work had increased. I said it made no difference, I’m not selling.

I’m a member of wine club Commanderie de Bordeaux. My personal wine collection is small. My favourite wine is the Latour. Over the course of the evening, as it warms and aerates, you can taste different facets of the wine as it evolves. At the beginning and end of the dinner, it will hit your palate differently.

I’ve been in business for 18 years and my clients know me very well, so I don’t have to dress so formally. I have skinny jeans from Topman, and I can’t live without my Tod’s loafers. I used to wear a lot of Hugo Boss, but over the past year I’ve lost 12 kg, so now I think Ermenegildo Zegna fits me better. I’m a member of the Chaine des Rotisseurs food society and I attend a lot of functions involving food. My metabolism is getting slower so I make a conscious effort to cut down my consumption of carbs.

Alsace in France is lovely wine country and Europe’s best-kept secret. San Francisco is very charming, I buy a lot of art there. Tasmania, in Australia, is totally relaxing, with its beaches and mountains. I highly recommend it for honeymoons.

I love the Padang Restaurant at the Singapore Cricket Club. They serve a deadly roast beef that goes with a beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon, all with a view of the Padang and the upcoming National Art Gallery. I feel very at home there. I also love the fish maw soup at Seng Kee Noodles and Soup at Serangoon Garden Market and the pork belly satay at Kwong Satay on Lorong 29 Geylang.

Hoon is also the chairman of the Centre for Fathering charity.