One hundred and seventy artefacts selected from the extensive collection of the British Museum and depicting creatures with amazing powers will be on show at the Hong Kong Museum of Art from tomorrow (January 20) to April 11, offering visitors a golden opportunity to explore human civilisation through the ancient and intriguing legends and myths attached to the creatures.
Entitled "Fantastic Creatures from the British Museum", the exhibition features an array of valuable artefacts selected from the collection of the British Museum and spanning different cultures and civilisations from the Ice Ages to the present day: from ancient Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome, China, Japan, India and Africa to elsewhere in Europe and the Americas. Spectacular exhibits include the Greek minor god Pan; the Greek gorgon Medusa; the Egyptian sphinx; sirens, the Etruscan bird-women of Italy; the Chinese dragon and qilin; the Japanese tengu; Medieval creatures; the unicorn; and Kozo, the double-headed dog hunter from the Bakongo people of Africa. Also on display are European masters' prints including "Rhinoceros" by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) and "Femme Torero" by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).
Jointly presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Trustees of the British Museum and organised by the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the British Museum, the exhibition celebrates the 15th anniversary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the 50th anniversary of the Hong Kong Museum of Art.
The exhibition was officially opened today (January 19) by the Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Raymond Young; the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mrs Betty Fung; the British Consul-General to Hong Kong and Macao, Mr Andrew Seaton; the Deputy Director of the British Museum, Dr Andrew Burnett; the Curator, Department of Greece and Rome, of the British Museum, Dr Alexandra Villing; the Chairman of the Friends of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Mrs Nancy Lee; and the Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Miss Eve Tam.
Fantastic creatures have always fascinated human beings throughout time and around the world. What makes a creature fantastic? It is often larger than life, or has multiple heads or other body parts; it may combine elements of different creatures, either different animals or animal and man. Often it also has magical properties. The fabulous, extraordinary beings may threaten or help us, and may be regarded as good or evil. In widely different societies, mythical beasts serve fundamental human needs. For many people, ancient and modern, they embody the complex relationship we have with nature and with the fellow creatures with whom we share the earth.
This exhibition is structured into nine sections, each centred around a particular type of fantastic creature, to examine how animals or mythical creatures address many fascinating questions and ideas, such as what lies beyond the horizon, how humans make sense of the world and explain its mysteries and dangers, the human relationship with the animal kingdom, the nature of good and evil, and what it means to be human.
To enhance viewers' appreciation of the exhibition, an education corner, "POW WOW Creatures Zone", with a computer game and origami activity will be set up for visitors to learn more about the artistic characteristics of the fantastic creatures in an interesting way. An "Animal Pottery" ceramic workshop will be available for families. In addition, lectures, audio guides, free public guided tours, video programmes and workshops will also be organised during the exhibition period. A fully illustrated catalogue will be published for sale at the Gift Shop of the museum.
To echo the exhibition from the British Museum, the Hong Kong Museum of Art has put on show a Chinese-themed exhibition with exhibits selected from its Chinese antiquities collection. Entitled "Cruising the Universe: Fantastic Animals in the Arts of China", the exhibition showcases the organic evolution of animal representations in Chinese traditional arts and crafts, customs, religious rituals, myths and legends.
The Hong Kong Museum of Art is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It is open from 10am to 6pm daily and from 10am to 8pm on Saturdays. On Chinese New Year's Eve, the museum will open at 10am and close at 5pm. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays) and the first two days of the Chinese New Year.
The standard admission tickets for this exhibition are priced at $20 (Friday to Tuesday) and $10 (Wednesdays only). Full-time students, senior citizens and people with disabilities can enjoy concession fees, which are $10 (Friday to Tuesday) and $5 (Wednesdays only). "Free Admission on Wednesdays" and the department Weekly Pass are not applicable to this exhibition.
For further information, call 2721 0116 or visit the Museum of Art's website at www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/Museum/Arts/english/exhibitions/exhibitions01_jan12_01.html .
Ends/Thursday, January 19, 2012
This relief plaque, entitled "Bellerophon and the Chimaera", was produced around 490-470 BC. The chimaera is a monstrous, fire-breathing creature with the body of a lioness, the head of a goat on its back, and a tail ending in a snake's head. It is perhaps the most bizarre mythical creature and this is why its name has also come to refer to any fanciful creature of the imagination. In ancient Greek myth, the hero Bellerophon kills the chimaera with the help of the magical winged horse Pegasus. The horse on this unique relief plaque is shown without wings. © The Trustees of the British Museum (2012).
Sleep overcomes the artist at work in this picture. His buried head throws viewers' attention to the ghoulish faces of the owls and cats that form an arc around him. The artist's nightmarish thoughts are evoked by the swirling owls that change in form into bats - the largest has a monstrous, canine head, and its spread wings place the focus on the sleeping figure. Entitled "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters", this painting was created by Goya in 1799. Goya employed aquatint for the mottled background to provide contrast to the etched figures. This print is the 43rd in his series of 80 satirical prints of "capricious" subjects. © The Trustees of the British Museum (2012).
The ancient Egyptian sphinx is a symbol of royal power. It represents a king, or sometimes a queen, with the body of a lion. The Hellenised feature of this statue shows it was made in 332-30 BC, in the Ptolemaic period. As usual, the king wears a "nemes" headcloth with a cobra on the forehead. Sphinx statues flanked temple doorways and processional avenues. Their role was to act as guardians, keeping enemies of the gods at a distance. Egyptian sphinxes are very different from the cruel female sphinx of Greek mythology. © The Trustees of the British Museum (2012).
This Chinese ewer, made in 11th century or early 12th century, takes the form of a girl with an upturned tail covered with fish scales and a pair of feathery wings who is holding the ewer spout. Mermaids are not usually part of Chinese iconography, and this winged figure may be more closely related to the angel-like creatures that are often seen in a Buddhist context with their hands similarly folded. © The Trustees of the British Museum (2012).
This colourful antefix or tile was once attached to the eaves of a roof on an ancient Greek temple built around 500 BC in Italy. It exploits the protective power of the gorgon Medusa for religious architecture. The monstrous face of the gorgon Medusa features staring eyes, a grimacing mouth, large animal fangs, a protruding tongue and a straggly beard. Scary to look at, it was also believed to ward off evil. Greek and Etruscan buildings often featured such tiles, which were also highly decorative. © The Trustees of the British Museum (2012).
This relief from a royal palace in Nimrud from around 875-860 BC shows a typical Assyrian protective spirit. The winged eagle-headed spirit, originally one of a pair that reached out and touched the "sacred tree", carries a tree cone, or "purifier". The "sacred tree", partly preserved on the extreme left, possibly represents the fertility of the land. The majority of reliefs in the palace were designed to ensure the well-being and prosperity of the palace's inhabitants and Ashurnasirpal's kingdom. © The Trustees of the British Museum (2012).
The opening ceremony of the "Fantastic Creatures from the British Museum" exhibition was held today (January 19) at the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Picture shows the officiating guests cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony. They are, from left, the Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Miss Eve Tam; the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mrs Betty Fung; the Deputy Director of the British Museum, Dr Andrew Burnett; the Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Raymond Young; the British Consul-General to Hong Kong and Macao, Mr Andrew Seaton; the Curator, Department of Greece and Rome, of the British Museum, Dr Alexandra Villing; and the Chairman of the Friends of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Mrs Nancy Lee.
Officiating guests view the exhibition.