"Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London" opens at Hong Kong Palace Museum

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"Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London" opens at Hong Kong Palace Museum
Guests visited the “Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London” special exhibition. © Hong Kong Palace Museum.

HONG KONG.- The Hong Kong Palace Museum and the National Gallery, London unveiled the special exhibition “Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London”. The first showcase of the Gallery’s prestigious painting collection in Hong Kong, the exhibition features 52 of the world’s finest masterpieces by 50 influential artists, spanning more than 400 years of Western art history. The exhibition will be open until 11 April 2024.

The opening ceremony was held at the HKPM, officiated by Paul Chan, Financial Secretary of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR); Brian Davidson CMG, British Consul General to Hong Kong; Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, London; Henry Tang, Chairman of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) Board; Joe Wong, Permanent Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Government of the HKSAR; Winnie Tam, Chairman of the HKPM Board; Jane Knowles, Director of Public Engagement of the National Gallery, London; Betty Fung, Chief Executive Officer of the WKCDA, and Dr Louis Ng, Museum Director of the HKPM.

Paul Chan, Financial Secretary of the Government of the HKSAR, said, “This spectacular, extraordinary cultural event is a very timely one, with Hong Kong embarking on its quest to become an East-meets-West centre for international cultural exchange, a unique positioning supported by the Central Government. This exhibition is one of the major projects supported by our Mega Arts and Cultural Events Fund, which was launched earlier this year to support international large-scale arts and cultural events in Hong Kong. Through this exhibition and many other significant projects, we aim to foster exchange and dialogue across world civilisations, making Hong Kong a unique international cultural hub and cultural tourism destination.”

“Masterpieces from the National Gallery” is in essence a “National Gallery in miniature”—a selection representative of the Gallery’s history which offers audiences a concise and beautiful history of Western art as uniquely told by the Gallery’s collection. Specially curated by the HKPM, it presents the captivating evolution of Western painting via six thematic sections featuring sacred images, mythological stories, everyday scenes, portraiture, landscapes, and paintings of modern life. Visitors will see these masterpieces in a new light as the exhibition draws their attention to the global connections found in the precious pigments used, the rare and novel objects depicted, and the diverse sources of artistic inspiration drawn upon.

Key pieces include Three Miracles of Saint Zenobius (about 1500) by Sandro Botticelli (about 1445-1510); The Garvagh Madonna (about 1510–1511) by Raphael (1483–1520); Boy Bitten by a Lizard (about 1594–1595) by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610); Self-Portrait at the Age of 63 (1669) by Rembrandt van Rijn(1606–1669); Portrait of Charles William Lambton (“The Red Boy”, 1825) by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830); The Parting of Hero and Leander (before 1837) by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851); Long Grass with Butterflies (1890) by Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890); and Irises (about 1914–1917) by Claude Monet (1840–1926).

A multisensory exploration of Western art

The exhibition is enriched with delightful music, informative videos, and other multimedia elements. One of the highlights is an innovative Van Gogh interactive installation, inspired by the masterpiece, Long Grass with Butterflies by Van Gogh. Butterflies dance to the visitors’ movements in an enchanting environment of long, green grass. The HKPM has collaborated with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra on an in-gallery musical journey complementing each section of the exhibition, featuring beloved classics by Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, Mahler, Mozart, Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff, and Sibelius.

Also unique to the HKPM’s presentation is the final part of the exhibition, which features the scientific research done by conservators at the National Gallery on a selection of paintings. Visitors will be fascinated by the layers of secrets hidden beneath the surface that have been revealed through X-ray fluorescence, pigment analysis, and other technologies. Come and explore the connections between art and science, from the extensive changes made to the paintings by the artists and the original colour of the works, to stories about the pigments used.

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