This year marks the 20th anniversary of the inauguration of the Xubaizhai Gallery of the Hong Kong Museum of Art. To commemorate Low Chuck-tiew's munificent gesture in donating his considerable collection - the Xubaizhai Collection - to a public museum as part of its permanent collection, the Hong Kong Museum of Art has selected representative works by 20 great masters from the collection for exhibition, offering the public an opportunity to appreciate these fabulous works while also promoting the art of Chinese painting and calligraphy.
Entitled "20/20: Special Exhibition for the Twentieth Anniversary of Xubaizhai Gallery", the exhibition opened today (September 26) and will run until September 30 next year at the Hong Kong Museum of Art. The exhibition features 34 works by great masters, including "The pagoda of Changgan Monastery" by Shitao, "Landscapes after old masters" by Wang Hui, "Landscapes and calligraphy in running script" by Dong Qichang, "Cooling off the hot summer" by Wen Zhengming, "Landscape after Wang Fu" by Hongren, "Farewell by a stream at the end of the year" by Shen Zhou, "Returning home with a qin" by Tang Yin, and "Landscape in the style of Huang Gongwang" by Wang Shimin. A painting by Low is also on display. Visitors will not only be able to view various artworks alongside historical records of their circulation, but will also get a glimpse of Low's preferences and connoisseurship as a collector.
Hong Kong played an important role in the art market during the mid-20th century, a period when important historical and political changes were taking place within China. Artefacts from all parts of the Mainland found their way to Hong Kong for sale, offering golden opportunities for private collectors. Among them was Low, a Singaporean Chinese who established the Xubaizhai Collection of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy.
The Xubaizhai Collection includes over 600 Chinese painting and calligraphy pieces encompassing work dating from the Northern Dynasties (386–581) through to the 20th century, and is particularly strong in works by masters of the major schools of the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties. In the 1970s and 80s, many international scholars, connoisseurs and museum professionals were drawn to appreciate the collection, making for a considerable cultural phenomenon in Hong Kong at that time. After years of planning, Low decided to donate his Xubaizhai Collection to the Hong Kong Museum of Art, a move that attracted great attention in the international art circle. In tribute, the museum built the Xubaizhai Gallery to exhibit a rotating permanent display of this remarkable collection. The gallery was officially opened on September 26, 1992. Since then, the museum has regularly organised thematic exhibitions to promote appreciation of Chinese painting and calligraphy.
The selected works featured at this exhibition all have their own story, including "The pagoda of Changgan Monastery" by Shitao, which Low probably regarded as the most significant item in the Xubaizhai Collection. During the difficult days of World War II, Low bought this painting from a Singaporean merchant, Choo Kwok Leong, for 2,800 British Settlement dollars. In an Allied air raid during the later years of the war, Low's residence was engulfed in flames and Low risked his life to save the painting from being burnt to ashes. This was to be the only surviving item of Low's early collection. Having travelled from Singapore to Hong Kong, "The pagoda of Changgan Monastery" not only serves as a cornerstone of the Xubaizhai Collection, but is also a witness to the century-long diasporic history of revered works of Chinese painting and calligraphy.
The "Landscape after Wang Fu", a landscape fan painted by Hongren, has been called "the thousand-dollar fan". This painting caught the attention of a cultural celebrity, Huang Miaozi, when he saw Low's collection in the 1980s. In the early years of Republican China, someone was said to have spent 1,000 da yang (silver coin) to acquire the painting, thus earning it the nickname of "the thousand-dollar fan" among connoisseurs in Guangdong. It is not known who the purchaser may have been, but the painting was eventually acquired for the Xubaizhai Collection, and visitors now have a valuable opportunity to view it at the exhibition.
Low once studied painting under Huang Binhong when he was in Shanghai. Under the Huang's guidance, Low not only developed an interest in connoisseurship and authentication, but also loved to paint. One of Low's works, "Landscapes", is included in the exhibition.
The Hong Kong Museum of Art is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It is open from 10am to 6pm from Sunday to Wednesday and Fridays, and from 10am to 8pm on Saturdays. From October 1 onwards, the museum's opening hours will be changed to 10am to 6pm on weekdays, and 10am to 7pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays). Admission is $10 and a half-price concession is available for full-time students, senior citizens and people with disabilities. Admission is free on Wednesdays.
For enquiries, call 2721 0116 or visit the Hong Kong Museum of Art's website at www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/Museum/Arts/en/exhibitions/exhibitions01_jul12_02.html.
Ends/Wednesday, September 26, 2012
The picture shows "The pagoda of Changgan Monastery" by Shitao, currently on display at the "20/20: Special Exhibition for the Twentieth Anniversary of Xubaizhai Gallery" at the Hong Kong Museum of Art.
The picture shows "Landscape after Wang Fu" by Hongren, currently on display at the "20/20: Special Exhibition for the Twentieth Anniversary of Xubaizhai Gallery" at the Hong Kong Museum of Art.
The picture shows "Landscapes after old masters" by Wang Hui, currently on display at the "20/20: Special Exhibition for the Twentieth Anniversary of Xubaizhai Gallery" at the Hong Kong Museum of Art.
The picture shows "Returning home with a qin" by Tang Yin, currently on display at the "20/20: Special Exhibition for the Twentieth Anniversary of Xubaizhai Gallery" at the Hong Kong Museum of Art.