Traveling museum pieces set to dazzle

Local | Phoebe Ng 9 Mar 2018

The arts calendar this year seems to have downsized from last year's HK$1.9 billion handover anniversary extravaganza, but art lovers will still see the debut of some of the finest imperial timepieces and other cultural marvels.

For the seven featured exhibitions announced yesterday, Treasures of Time is among the most anticipated, as one of British mechanical clocks that will be on display used to be owned by a Chinese emperor.

The artwork, shaped as a village with a hut, animals and tree, was only recently restored by the Palace Museum in Beijing, and will debut in December.

The exhibition, running until April 2019 at the Science Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui, will also showcase 120 artifacts from the Palace Museum.

The selections are mostly made in Switzerland, England and France. However, a few Chinese timepieces made by the royal clockmaker of the Qing Dynasty will also be on show.

Michelle Li Mei-sheung, director of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, described the Chinese mechanical clocks as "extremely fine," and said they incorporated oriental features.

Most of the British clocks in the Qing collection have architectural designs, automatic mechanisms, and backgrounds of landscapes or farmland.

"Clocks were like toys in the Qing imperial court," Li said. "The Qianlong Emperor would order clocks from Europe. But during the wait, he would ask his craftsmen to make replicas for him."

There will also be exhibits from London's Science Museum, but all the details have yet to be confirmed.

If December is too long of a wait, Hongkongers can visit another exhibition - An Age of Luxury: the Assyrians to Alexander - in May.

This exhibit will feature 200 artifacts from the British Museum, and are set to recreate the life of the rich and powerful in ancient Assyria (modern northern Iraq) in 900 BC until the era of Alexander the Great in about 300 BC.

As for the performing arts, it will feature The Palace of Eternal Life, a Chinese play written by Hong Sheng in the Qing Dynasty.

Last year, the government forked out an extra HK$190 million for arts programs to celebrate the handover's 20th anniversary.

The "groundbreaking" exhibition of six Egyptian mummies, which traveled all the way from the British Museum in London, was the most popular, with 854,000 visitors.

Despite not spending as much this year, Li insisted that the LCSD isn't "downsizing" its arts program.

"Of course, mummies would grab our eyeballs almost instantly, but you cannot repeat exhibitions every year," she said. "Programs have got to be balanced, and we are trying to bring more new things in."

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