Far from the kind of crowd I expected to see
at a special museum exhibition!
The crowd was even sparser in the second section
of the Claude Monet special exhibition! :O
What you have (t)here is a magical space
that one can't help lingering in for a bit :)
The Hong Kong Museum of Art closed for renovation last August and isn't due to re-open until 2018 at the earliest, and possibly only in 2019. Fortunately, it's far from the only art exhibition venue in town these days. Also, the Hong Kong Heritage Museum -- which has played host in the part to special exhibitions showcasing the art of such as Studio Ghibli, Faberge and Picasso -- remains on hand to host the latest blockbuster art exhibition to hit the Big Lychee.
Running from May 4th to July 11th of this year, Claude Monet: The Spirit of Place brings together some 20 works by the French Impressionist. While the majority of them come from French museological institutions (including Paris' Musée d'Orsay, and the Palais des Beaux-Arts at Lille), three of the paintings (i.e., The Break-Up of the Ice at Vétheuil, facing Lavacourt; Water Lilies; and Effect of Spring, Giverny) are part of Hong Kong-based private collections -- and thus could be said to be particular treats to view since they aren't usually on display in public venues.
Although I've not (yet) had the good fortune to visit Monet's garden at Giverny, I've been privileged enough to have seen masterpieces by the master artist on display when visiting museological establishments such as London's National Gallery, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. Over the years, I've also come across a number of minor works by the prolific painter at such as regional Japanese museums like the Ohara Museum in Kurashiki and art fairs held in Hong Kong.
Because of this, I have to admit to not raring to go check out the Monet exhibition over at the Hong Kong Heritage Musem of Art; especially as my memories of visiting the Picasso and Studio Ghibli special exhibitions at that Sha Tin museum involved being in spaces that were far too crowded for optimal art viewing. But after I saw bluebalu's blog post of her visit to the Monet exhibition, it suddenly became more appealing.
And I think my decision to go visit around lunchtime on a weekday absolutely paid off as I was able to get clear views of all the works on display at this special exhibition (whose admission fee is just HK$20 (~US$2.58) most days (and HK$10 (~US$1.29) on Wednesdays)), in the kind of peaceful surroundings that allow for greater aesthetic appreciation and a generally higher quality museum going experience!
Other factors that helped quite a bit to get me into the spirit of things at this exhibition was how well curated it was. While there have been special exhibitions at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum (I think particularly of the Pixar special exhibition) where I've felt the design and layout actually had worked against a smooth visitor flow, it certainly was not the case here. In addition, I heartily applaud the use of multi- and interactive media here, in the form of such as screenings of informative short films (about Monet's life, the Impressionists' preference for painting outdoors, etc.) and -- less conventionally -- an opportunity to virtually "visit" and digitally "paint" water lilies onto the surface of a reconstruction of the pond of Monet's Japanese Water Garden.
The first section of the exhibition will leave you wanting more, so it's great to discover that there's a second section that I might even consider the highlight of the exhibition despite it not containing a single work by Monet in it! Instead, this sizable space -- which could be easily missed as it's accessible through a different entryway and doesn't appear on the map on the free exhibition pamphlet handed to visitors as they enter the section of the museum that contains Monet's art -- is devoted to allowing you to feel like you've been transported to the artist's house, studio and garden in Giverny.
In a room done up to look like Monet's dining room, one gets to see how he had assembled a collection of Japanese woodblock prints (including Hokusai's famous The Great Wave Off Kanagawa) and find out what kind of food would Monet liked to eat. In a replica of his study/living room, you can look out the window to see the kind of views he routinely was privy to, view more artworks that the master artist collected -- and drew inspiration from -- and also sit on a duplicate of his leather chair. Best of all, you can get a sense of how beautiful the garden he created is at various times of the day, as different shades of light play on the glorious variety of flora and fauna grown there.
Oh, and while there's no original art by Monet in this second section of this special exhibition, there actually is some pretty fantastic original art by Hong Kong sand artist Hoi Chiu and his team on view there. Believe it or not, these talented individuals very ably re-created many of Monet's masterpieces using sand -- and these re-creations were then "animated" for a video so cool that I ended up watching it twice back-to-back! :b