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Museum of Art shows Treasures from British Museum from tomorrow

About 270 artefacts selected from the British Museum will be on show at the Hong Kong Museum of Art from tomorrow (September 14) to December 2, offering visitors a rare opportunity to appreciate the long history of human civilisation and wisdom of mankind. The exhibits come from the rich collection of the British Museum amassed over the past 250 years.

The extraordinary exhibition, "Treasures of the World's Cultures from the British Museum", featuring sculptures, ceramics, wood carvings, jewellery, drawings and prints, which cover a vast span of time from two million years ago to the present day, will give visitors a glimpse of the diversified arts and cultures of ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, the Middle East, Africa, India, Japan, Korea, America and Oceania.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exhibition today (September 13), the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mr Thomas Chow, said the department was honoured to be jointly presenting this exhibition with the Trustees of the British Museum to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the Establishment of the HKSAR. "It is another highlight programme immediately following the very successful recent exhibition of 'The Pride of China: Masterpieces of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy of the Jin, Tang, Song and Yuan Dynasties from the Palace Museum'," Mr Chow said.

"Established in 1753, the British Museum was grounded in the Enlightenment idea that human cultures can, despite their differences, understand one another through mutual engagement. The museum also aims to reach a broader worldwide audience by extending engagement with this audience."

"This year is also the 45th anniversary of the Hong Kong Museum of Art. In the past 45 years, the museum has been making every effort to protect the heritage of mankind and to bring cultural treasures to Hong Kong. We have been working closely with world-class museums in introducing the most remarkable art and cultures to our visitors," Mr Chow said.

Jointly presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Trustees of the British Museum, the exhibition is organised by the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the British Museum, supported by the British Consulate-General, Hong Kong, and the British Council, and sponsored by Champion Technology Holdings Limited, Jardine Matheson Group, Prudential Corporation Asia, Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) Limited and Swire Pacific Limited.

Other officiating guests at today's opening ceremony were the British Consul-General, Hong Kong, Mr Stephen Bradley, the Senior Keeper of the British Museum, Dr John Curtis, the Director of the British Council Hong Kong, Ms Ruth Gee, Chairman of Champion Technology Holdings Limited Dr Paul Kan, Group Finance Director of Jardine Matheson Holdings Limited Mr James Riley, Chief Executive of Prudential Corporation Asia Mr Barry Stowe, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) Limited Mr Peter Sullivan, and Mr Philip Chen of Swire Pacific Limited.

The exhibition features a number of magnificent artifacts. Highlight items include Paleolithic chopping stones, the oldest objects of the British Museum, an Egyptian wooden mummy-board "The Unlucky Mummy" of early 22nd Dynasty dated about 945 BC, a 13th-century Egyptian brass "Astrolabe" with silver inlay, a marble Roman statue of Dionysos of 2nd century, a "Queen's lyre" of about 2600-2400 BC found in the Royal Cemetery at Ur, a walrus ivory chess-piece made in about 1150-1200 and found in Scotland, a portrait-head of Euripides, the leading playwright of Classical Athens, and a nude man drawing by Leonardo da Vinci.

Africa can be considered as the land that nurtured the primates. From the chipped stone tools of the Paleolithic Period on display, visitors will learn of our ancestors' wisdom. Mesopotamia - a region with fertile soils lies between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East - was the cradle of a number of civilisations. There, the Sumerians left us history's earliest records of writing - the cuneiform scripts. Visitors can surely picture the glory of the Babylon and the Assyrian Empire through the impressive stone carvings they left behind. During the time of ancient Egypt, the River Nile also nurtured some of the brightest and most sophisticated civilisations. Their rich and mysterious art reflected their yearning for an afterlife and resurrection. The elaborate mummy board, canopic jars and "Book of the Dead" all exemplify the meticulous craftsmanship and beliefs of the ancient Egyptians.

Greek art and mythology are inseparable. With their keen powers of observation and artistic skills, the Greeks blended images of deities in sculptures, gold and silverware, pottery, and bronze, and created extremely detailed works of art. Roman art inherited Greek style, which can be seen in replicas of classical Greek sculptures, such as the sculptures of Dionysos, the god of wine and Eros, the god of love, in the exhibition. Greek and Roman style sculpture even influenced sculpture in India - one of the exhibits, a schist sculpture of Buddha from the Kushan era, is a good example of this.

The exhibition also shows the influence of Christianity to European art of the Middle Ages. The 100 years that followed saw the rise of a number of masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer, Raphaeland Rembrandt, whose works can all move people's hearts.

Works of art from 12th to 19th century Japan and Korea are also featured in the exhibition. They include ink paintings and ceramics that show the deep cultural roots these countries share with China. Like Medieval Europe, arts in the Islamic world also thrived through religion - whether in coins, ceramic tiles or paintings, one can see religious influences. In the other hemisphere of the world, geographical environments led to Oceania developing its unique arts and culture, from the stone boundary markers of Easter Island to the primitive and exotic whistles the Maoris used in warfare. Art in the Americas features nature and animals as the main motifs, with bold brushstrokes signalling the people's unique artistic skills. This includes the mysterious and mesmerising art of Mayan culture.

To enhance viewers' appreciation of the exhibition, an education gallery will be set up with introductory text, books and interesting activities. Audio guides, free public guided tours, video programmes, workshop and an exhibition web-kit will also be organised during the exhibition period. A fully illustrated catalogue and a booklet will be published for sale at the Gift Shop of the museum.

In addition, a curator from the British Museum and local scholars have been invited to give lectures introducing the rich collection of British Museum and the stories behind the relics. Details are available on the museum's website.

The Museum of Art is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It opens from 10am to 6pm from Sunday to Wednesday and Fridays, and from 10am to 8pm on Saturdays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays) for bookings from schools and voluntary organisations. Admission for the "Treasures of the World's Cultures from the British Museum" exhibition will be $30. A half-price concession is available for senior citizens aged 60 or above, full-time students and people with disabilities. "Free Admission on Wednesdays" and the Museum Weekly Pass are not applicable to this exhibition.

For details of the exhibition, visit the Museum of Art's website at . For enquiries, call 2721 0116.

Ends/Thursday, September 13, 2007

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