Daughter of Macao casino mogul is driven by her passion for culture and China"s place in the world auction scene
You might expect there would be advantages in being a daughter of Macao casino magnate Stanley Ho — but whatever Sabrina Ho Chiu Yeng, 27, has achieved in career and business is largely down to her own efforts.
Clearly in evidence, as she makes her mark in Macao"s auction and art scene, is the spirit of fair play and hard work instilled in her from a young age by her parents.
One early lesson about the importance of not taking privilege for granted was delivered by her mother. Ho had turned up late for her first day of work in the family business, and her mother publicly chastised her for tardiness and demanded she show more respect to her colleagues.
Ho"s father was also a significant influence on her formative years.
A particularly deep memory from her childhood is of her "very busy father" as "he constantly had tons of work to deal with", she said. "My father has been my superman and was always emphasizing that nothing is impossible, and this has been motivating me ever since.
"I grew up under the spotlight of society due to the fame of my family and this motivates me to be better. The supervision of others has always been one of my best fortunes while I was growing up."
Another role model is former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher — the first woman to hold the highest office in the United Kingdom government.
"Margaret Thatcher has been my idol for the past few years. I was especially touched by her famous quote: "Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny"," said Ho.
"The key to Thatcher"s successful achievements in a male-dominated world were her persevering spirit and continuous pursuit of goals. She never surrendered easily.
"No matter how strong the opponents were, she had the power to handle it. These are the core values of Thatcher which earned her the ultimate respect from around the world — similar to my father who emphasizes "nothing is impossible"."
Ho graduated from the University of Hong Kong with a bachelor"s degree in 2013. She is driven, both personally and professionally, by a passion for the arts.
"My curiosity in this field has always been supported by the exploration of appreciation in beauty," she said.
"In my opinion, art from one era often lives through time, not dissimilar to the way we view history. Other than reading existing literature, the representation of reality from the past has often been importantly presented by art from their own eras."
Ho added that being professionally involved in the art scene has allowed her to "enable journeys to different times and maintain heritages".
Despite her well-connected background, Ho began in the lower echelons of the auction industry.
"So as to understand the global environment of auctioning, I began as a telephone operator for Poly Auction Beijing and worked my way up from the very foundation."
In 2015 she became director and CEO of Poly Auction Macau, and her life"s work took off in earnest.
One of the goals of the State-owned auction house is the return of Chinese artworks that were spirited out of the country during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76).
"Poly Auction has long been making efforts to bring Chinese artworks back home. There are many artworks consigned from Europe and around the world being sold by Poly Auction every year. We are like the bridge bringing the artworks back to Chinese collectors."
Ho sees the next decade as an important time for the Chinese auction industry.
"The biggest change will be internationalization. More buyers and consigners will be coming from abroad, and more artworks from abroad will be shown at Chinese auction houses. Western works of art will attract more and more Chinese collectors.
"Compared to Europe and the US, we are still at an early stage. Chinese auction houses began with Chinese artworks and Chinese collectors and expanded rapidly, just like the fast-growing Chinese economy."
The national auction scene still has enormous "untapped potential", she said.
Ho is confident that auction houses in Beijing, Shanghai and Macao can hold their own on the world stage.
"The art market reflects the economic situation of a city and a country. China plays a vital part on the stage of the international economy and this makes Chinese auction houses quite promising. Chinese works of art are broad and rich," she said.
And they are rich in every sense of the word. At auction, China"s top artworks command top dollar.
"The most expensive artwork sold by Poly Auction is Twelve Landscape Screens by Qi Baishi, which is also the highest price of all Chinese artworks that has ever sold," Ho said.
Qi"s 1925 ink-brush set of exquisite Chinese scenery went under the hammer in Beijing in December 2017 and sold for 931.5 million yuan ($147.5 million).
Last year, Ho stepped up her philanthropic involvement by forming a strategic partnership with UNESCO.
"In 2017, I signed a Strategic Cooperation Agreement with Irina Georgieva Bokova — the (then) director-general of UNESCO in Paris. We began our steps to cooperate in aspects of education and culture. I am so honored to be a member of one of the biggest organizations internationally," said Ho.
The globally renowned body is responsible for classifying heritage listed sites — places of great cultural and historical significance — around the world. China alone has 52 such sites, including the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors in Xi"an, Northwest China"s Shaanxi province.
But UNESCO is also active in many other areas, including scientific endeavor, education and the eradication of poverty. Ho is keen to become more closely involved — particularly in the area of education.
Other areas she would like to address through her UNESCO involvement include more-efficient education feedback methods, an overhaul of old-fashioned teaching methods, and a platform to enable a standardized upscaling of education.
Ho admitted that one of her greatest challenges with UNESCO is assessing the many potential partners that approach the organization through her.
"At such times, I have to rationally observe not only the project itself but consider a wider social responsibility, too, in order to avoid people with hidden intentions."
In addition to her other roles, Ho remains committed to making a contribution to art in the city that made her family name famous.
"I established Chiu Yeng Culture in 2015 as my first-ever entrepreneurial investment," she said.
"The logo of our company is a symbol of "infinity", as Chiu Yeng Culture aims to explore the limitless possibilities of arts in order to motivate the breakdown of local arts and cultural barriers in Macao."
In practical terms, this is being achieved with initiatives such as organizing the Macau Art Graduates Joint Exhibition Y Show and Poly Macau Hotel Art Fair — which Ho hopes will provide a boost to the Macao community.
"It has been our main interest to build a firm and sustainable foundation for this industry (the arts), where we definitely foresee great potential with many young and talented artists from this part of the world," she explained.
"Y Show has successfully presented a platform for international enterprises and designers to seek young designers with direct job offers for these fresh graduates."
Giving opportunities to the best and brightest in the artistic sphere is undoubtedly something that sits well with Ho"s ethos.