“We have the skin in the game,” declares Prince Philipp von und zu Liechtenstein, before erupting into a hearty laugh. Seconds ago, the younger brother of the Crown Prince of Liechtenstein had just revealed that in his country, his family builds its fortune independent of taxpayers' money. “We pay for everything out of our own pocket.”
It's a fact Prince Philipp let on when he was recently in town to do his rounds as chairman of the bank LGT Group. He was also taking the opportunity to raise awareness for a three-month-long exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore (NMS) that his company is the main sponsor of. Commencing on June 27, it will feature 91 pieces of art from Liechtenstein's Princely Collection.
“With [my family], things are very different. After your studies, you better go and work, and earn your living. It's as simple as that,” he points out rather matter-of-factly. So it was straight into the banking industry that he went into, gradually rising through the ranks and eventually landing the position of chairman in LGT.
Today, the private bank and asset management firm is considered a medium-sized one and has approximately CHF100 billion (S$132 billion) under its care. In 1986, it made its first foray into Asia with an office in Hong Kong and has never since left, with offices subsequently opening in Tokyo, Taiwan and, 10 years ago, Singapore. “We have about 130 people in our office here and that figure is growing,” he says.
As it turns out, LGT's success is closely tied to the coffers of the Liechtenstein royal family. A foundation under the auspices of the bank has the Crown Prince as its beneficiary. “My brother doesn't get one cent from the taxpayers. He has to pay for [his personal expenses] out of his own pocket and we run his pocket,” Prince Philipp explains.
That isn't to say that Crown Prince Hans-Adams II is sitting around twiddling his thumbs. One of his responsibilities is to grow the Princely Collection, one of the most important and comprehensive private art collections in the world that was started more than 500 years ago.
The collection is made up of more than 20,000 pieces that includes paintings, porcelain and arms dating from between the 14th and 19th century. “That's where our strength and know-how is so it's better for us to concentrate on this time period,” explains Prince Philipp. “My brother has collected several hundred pieces in the last 30 years.”
The idea to collaborate with the NMS was first mooted in 2009 during the Crown Prince's state visit to Singapore. It was a year later that he personally visited the museum to ensure it was suitable for hosting the pieces and seal the deal.
That is how 91 masterpieces from the Princely Collection, spanning paintings, furniture, silverware and porcelain, will be making their way down to Singapore, chosen specifically so that they give an overview of the collection. “We also took into consideration if the pieces were intact enough to move around. Certain pieces can't. It's like old people. They don't travel very much anymore.”
The exhibition is divided into six parts with each highlighting a different section of the Princely Collection. Kick-starting it are pieces that depict the Liechtenstein royal family who were patrons of the collection. Other sections include a focus on the Renaissance, Peter Paul Rubens, and art of the 18th and 19th century.
It is perhaps also timely that the exhibition is taking place this year, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of LGT's presence in Singapore. But more than that, says Prince Philipp, it is a good way of strengthening ties between the two nations: “Singapore and Liechtenstein are both small countries, so we have a similar way of giving attention to things that larger countries don't have. Sharing of artworks is one of the most beautiful ways to build relations.”
Princely Treasures from the House of Liechtenstein will run from June 27 to September 29, 2013 at the National Museum of Singapore.