Home Tour: Filipino Art Haven In The Heart Of HK
Tucked away behind the crest of a small steep hill off Hong Kong’s Conduit Road is a three-storey art deco building circa 1930 that, over the past two years, has been the home of art collector and editor Rex Aguado and his partner, financial executive search specialist Harry O’Neill.
“We’ve always looked for interesting properties to live in, and loved that this building still had the classic geometry, high ceilings, and distinctive details of the art deco period,” says Rex, who snapped up the architectural gem after hearing from friends that one of the three apartments was about to become available.
“The building has many authentic art deco details, like a beautiful green and white tiled entrance floor, stained-glass windows, and a glamorous, curvaceous central staircase—so we were happy the landlords, descendants of the original owner, allowed us to make the changes we had in mind,” Rex says.
With more than 200 works by contemporary Filipino artists in his collection, Rex also creates a highly detailed plan of where to display the various artworks, grouped according to subject or theme instead of size and colour. For example, the double-height living room with a simple art deco ornamental cornice against soaring ceilings and classic colonial glass doors onto the balcony offers a quiet backdrop for a puzzle-like arrangement of portraits alongside flamboyant sculptures such as Ronald Ventura’s Mask, a striking white statue wearing a mask of a dog’s face. The study, meanwhile, features a hanging of more provocative works such as Sweet Mary Jane by Kiko Escora. “I like artists with stories, but hangings should never be too strong,” Rex says. “We live with this—it is not a gallery.”
Moving from their previous home—an airy 7,500-square-foot house in Clearwater Bay—to a space that was about half of the floor area called for a serious edit, with numerous artworks placed in storage. “You have to work as a couple—although it helps having a space big enough to absorb different tastes,” Rex says with a laugh.
Harry’s bedroom, for instance, features a soothing, muted palette that is offset by understated Irish paintings and darker period furniture, collected during his job postings in the UK, the Middle East, Singapore, and Australia. “Harry is much better at editing things; I am a bit of a magpie and like collecting stuff,” Rex admits. “Sometimes this means that our furniture is a bit of a hotchpotch of vintage and contemporary pieces, but it has been very serendipitous. When you throw different things together, they often work in a beautiful way.”
Among Rex’s most cherished pieces in the apartment is Toys’R’Us, a large-scale painting of a Filipino nanny by the Manila-born artist Leslie de Chavez, which hangs in the living room. “I like the fact that he gave her a very regal dignity,” says Rex. “She is not beautiful in a traditional sense, but still has an elegance to her. It talks of the experience of Filipinos overseas.”
The couple’s favourite space to retreat, however, is the study. “It’s like a comfortable cave, because it has a wonderful cocooning effect,” Rex says. “At night, it is very quiet and beautiful, with low lighting and candles. It’s where we are both happiest. We still can’t believe that a home like this exists in Hong Kong.”
Photography James John Jetel | Styling and Production Kissa Castañeda