There are a number of exhibitions at our public museums this summer that are well worth visiting.
I was particularly excited about 'The Secret Garden of Emperor Qianlong', at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, which showcases 75 sets of paintings, calligraphy, furniture, murals and religious art from the Ningshou Gong Garden inside the Palace Museum, which has co-curated this show (sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club). The emperor was known for his taste in art, so the display is top quality.
What's more, some of these artefacts have never left the mainland. They are only touring because the garden is being restored; once the conservation work is completed in 2019, everything will return to the capital and probably won't go on loan again - not on this scale anyway.
I took my parents to the exhibition a couple of weeks ago, partly because they have not been to the Museum of Art before. A large piece of uncut jade, part of the display, was impressive, as were the ceramics and zitan chairs (some of which had been finding their way to the auction market in recent years, fetching extraordinary prices).
The murals, the show's highlights, adopted the three-point perspective technique introduced by missionary artist Giuseppe Castiglione; the paintings, featuring mainly women and children, are exquisite.
There is a multimedia section where visitors can use audio-video features to learn more about the history and stories behind the Ningshou Gong Garden though the scanning of the QR (quick response) codes are more gimmick than having any practical use. 'The Secret Garden of Emperor Qianlong' is a compact show but you should spend some time on each item to truly appreciate the artistic expression and craftsmanship.
At the Museum of History, 'The Majesty of All Under Heaven: The Eternal Realm of China's First Emperor' (also sponsored by the HKJC) is more of a blockbuster show, featuring 120 items/sets of relics from the Qin dynasty. It's billed as the largest of its kind ever held in this city. Highlights include 20 terracotta figures - a general, a kneeling archer, even an acrobat.
The Heritage Museum, meanwhile, has a 100-per-cent Hong Kong show, 'Beyond the Portrait', featuring images by 18 established and up-and-coming local photographers. Jointly curated by Wong Wo-bik, Yvonne Lo and Lukas Tam Wai-ping, the exhibition features portraits of ordinary folks, which is rare these days in this celebrity-obsessed society.