HONHG KONG – Beijing’s Palace Museum, located in the heart of the Forbidden City, contains the largest collection of Chinese art in the world, spanning nearly 5,000 years of history. Today, more than 900 of these treasures are on display at the new Hong Kong Palace Museum, a “gift” from the central government to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule. While there’s nothing overtly political in its collection by modern standards, at least the museum sparked controversy when it was first announced by outgoing Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam , in late 2016, in part due to the apparent lack of public consultation before the project was green. alight. The Palace Museum’s long-term loan, which includes rare paintings, calligraphic works, ceramics, jade and more from its 1.8m collection, is “unprecedented on every level”, the official said. president of the Hong Kong Museum, Bernard Chan. “This is the first time that large quantities of these national treasures have been taken… to another cultural institution, so you can imagine the complexity behind that,” he adds, citing challenges with transportation, security and insurance, the latter of which took a conglomerate of around 100 insurance companies around the world to solve.
Organizing exhibitions in the midst of a pandemic has also proven difficult – as has an accelerated schedule ensuring that the museum, its construction funded by a 3.5 billion HKD ($450 million) donation from the Hong Kong Jockey Club, opened in time for this week’s anniversary.
“When I was a curator in the United States, I spent three years working on an exhibition. Now I have three years to work on nine exhibitions,” says deputy director Daisy Wang Yiyou, referring to the museum’s ambitious opening schedule.
The stunning artifacts, 166 of which are considered ‘first-rate national treasures’, feature in themed exhibits, including one exploring aspects of Imperial life in the Forbidden City and another focusing on innovative design and production techniques. . Elsewhere, a horse-inspired art exhibition juxtaposes works from the Forbidden City with pieces on loan from the Louvre in Paris. Some of the objects have never been seen in public before, including two recently restored sketches of empresses.
Wang expects the “blockbuster” attraction to be the museum’s rotating exhibit of Chinese paintings and calligraphy from the Jin, Tang, Song and Yuan dynasties.
“(These works) are extremely fragile and extremely rare, so after 30 days in Hong Kong, they are going to be taken back to storage in the Forbidden City… (to) rest for a few years,” she explains.