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Heritage Museum showcases contemporary artworks in a mega-store context

An exhibition, MEGartSTORE, which presents contemporary artworks in an unusual and experimental context, will open tomorrow (June 4) and run until November 27 at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum.

The Curator (Art) of the Heritage Museum, Mrs Judy Chan Lee Suk-yee, said that the title, "MEGartSTORE", was taken from the words "mega-store and mega-mall".

"The word 'Mega' is normally used to describe big flagship stores with a complete range of goods or a huge shopping centre with every possible service and merchandise on offer. It is a place where the consumer needs are taken care of with one-stop shopping. This exhibition displays and mixes 300 pieces of the museum's art collections, including sculptures, ceramics, drawings, paintings, photographs and prints – a variety of subject matter and creative media under one roof," Mrs Chan said.

"Classifying them under typical categories found in lifestyle or department stores such as 'Food & Beverage', 'Health & Beauty', 'Home & Garden', 'Leisure & Entertainment' and 'Rest Area' initiates new ways of seeing and appreciating and gives new meaning to the artworks and gives visitors a different 'consumption' experience.

"MEGartSTORE is an unprecedented exhibition in Hong Kong. It examines the relationship between the classification, display and appreciation of contemporary art and the presentation of commercial products. We want to challenge visitors by suggesting a fun way of looking at art, serving as a catalyst to aestheticise the shopping experiences of our daily lives," Mrs Chan added.

"In MEGartSTORE, artworks are no longer sacred and unreachable as in traditional museums, they are displayed and seen in a lifestyle environment. As people browse and shop around, they will experience a parade of artworks in a new light."

Mrs Chan said the thinking behind the re-categorisation of museum collections was initially subjective, either literally derived from the title of the work or its visual appearance. "These categories are not meant to be perfect examples, nor the only possible ones. The intention is to induce visitors' sense of self-gratification, irresistible impulse and leisurely contentment."

Four young local architects, Anson Tsang, Kenneth Tse, Steven Chu and Humphrey Wong, were invited to design the interior of the store while designer Tommy Li was responsible for the design of icons and overall image. Five local artists, Annie Wan, Tang Ying-chi, Hung Lam, Amy Cheung and Tsang Kin-wah were invited to create works for each area.

Anson Tsang, who designed the "Food & Beverage" area and named it "From turnstile to cashier – Searching for food for the body & soul", claimed that an occasional trip to the supermarket was a form of fun. With all kinds of foods and drinks, customers cannot help fantasising about a big feast to satisfy the cravings of the body and soul. However, underneath the colourful packaging is only an indistinctive item. The trend of globalisation has stripped away every individual trait, leaving behind a product with no personality or depth. Tsang hopes visitors can rediscover the character of each "product" and explore the stories behind it.

"The Rainbow", created by Annie Wan for the "Food & Beverage" area, is about the dislocation of artwork and commodity. The most significant part of the work is the idea of "shopping". Wan uses commodities as material to create a work in the museum, and she shops from supermarkets with an artist's choice.

Kenneth Tse designed the "Health & Beauty" area and named it "Dressing up the body and mind", while Tang Ying-chi created "Veiled Wall and Veiled Clothes". Tse noted that people shop for their external shell. Shopping for the internal, however, leads to a beautiful state of mind. What fills the shopping carts will be knowledge, wisdom, self-reflection and serenity. A fashion boutique is used as a medium to present the artworks. Each piece of Tang Ying-chi's clothing represents a different adjective: elegant, casual and basic.

Sewing on transparent fabrics has always been Tang's artistic interest. The visual wall is the centrepiece, accompanied by several fashion items as interactive elements. To see and to be seen, being covered and revealed, dress fitting becomes both public and private. These conflicting situations have multilayered meanings and implications in today’s society. Tang found that these cultural identity issues are very interesting, especially those concerning autonomy under the influence of globalisation and Mainland China.

Steven Chu designed the "Home & Garden" area and named it "The Home-Art-Labyrinth-Store". To Chu, shopping is like playing hide-and-seek and treasure-hunting. Shoppers never know when the right item is going to pop up. In this area, a distorted furniture store where artworks of various media, instead of furniture items, are showcased. This special setting provides the audience with a new space for imagination and a different perspective of appreciation.

In this area, Hung Lam created "Home & Garden". It in fact reflects his perception that people who grow up in Hong Kong are probably not very familiar with the concept of home and garden. When people are at home, the only area they move around in is the tiny space in front of the television set. TV programmes become the topic of conversation among families. The TV set, not the garden, is now the focus of family life.

Humphrey Wong is responsible for the design of the "Leisure & Entertainment" area and named it "I came, I saw, I purchased!". Wong believes that browsing plays a crucial role in our purchasing behaviour. Blister packaging is perfect for browsing. It freezes its content in its best naked condition, displaying its most seductive posture, making the packaging almost disappear in our cognitive process of perception. When the purchase is completed and the goods are consumed, the blister packaging leaves a footprint of its content, disclosing its material nature.

For this area, Amy Cheung has created a giant "toy" called "A bleeding toy from children". It is a life-size wooden T-34 toy tank. With this big toy, Cheung wants to discuss with visitors the universal concept of war and toys as well as violence and entertainment.

Tsang Kin-wah created the work "ISHOPYOUSHOPHESHOPSHESHOPITSHOPTHEYSHOPISHOPYOUSHOPHESHOPSHESHOPITSHOPTHEYSHOP......” for the "Rest Area". Things may appear one way, but indeed be another. The work displays the alternative compositions between things that are atypical. It fuses and parallels the elegance of the classics with the vulgarity from the common. It stimulates spectators to rethink the ideas of legitimacy, authority and authenticity of their "truth" and "reality".

Tommy Li designed the icons and text for MEGartSTORE. Each icon symbolises a different idea behind a different exhibit in a contemporary and youthful way. It is interesting how such visual sensations can exist on their own, and at the same time, be an integral part of the comprehensive whole and this is exactly what this exhibition wants to show.

Located at 1 Man Lam Road, Sha Tin, the Heritage Museum opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). Admission is $10, with a half-price concession for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and full-time students. Admission is free on Wednesdays.

Car parking is available at the Heritage Museum. Those who prefer to use public transport may take the KCR Ma On Shan line to the Che Kung Temple station, which is within five minutes’ walk of the museum.

For enquiries, call 2180 8188. For details of the exhibition, visit the Heritage Museum's website at .

Ends/Saturday, June 3, 2006
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