Arts festival Le French May returns to Hong Kong

Popular festival brings cultural ties to the fore

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2014, 10:20am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2014, 10:20am

Twentieth-century Chinese masters - a genre that has become popular among private collectors and public museums worldwide over the past decade - will be one of the highlights of this year's Le French May arts festival.

Close to 100 paintings by sought-after names such as Xu Beihong, Lin Fengmian, Sanyu, Zao Wou-ki, Chu Teh-chun and Wu Guanzhong will go on show at the Hong Kong Museum of Art from June 20 to September 21 in "Paris. Chinese Paintings".

All of these Chinese artists studied and lived in Paris in the early part of the last century and that overseas exposure and experience - at a time when the French capital was a seat of intellectual and artistic activity - greatly influenced their aesthetics.

They belonged to the first generation of Chinese artists who went abroad to study, says Szeto Yuen-kit, the curator of the exhibition. "The show will focus not only on the art, but also the interesting histories and backgrounds of some of these artists.

One of the highlights will be the showcase of works by Pan Yuliang, which are rarely shown in public." Pan, who was sold to a brothel after her parents died when she was still a teenager, is known as the first female Chinese artist to paint in the Western style.

"The exhibition is an introduction to this generation of artists and how the Chinese art scene was affected by French culture," says Szeto. "The show will also be supported by a historical narrative made up of photographs and texts. We'll also be looking at the role foreign diplomats played and how many of these important works found their way to private and public collections."

Most of the paintings in the exhibition come from the Musée Cernuschi, but there are also contributions from major French institutions including the Musée Guimet, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Centre Georges Pompidou, as well as around 10 works from the vaults of the Hong Kong Museum of Art.

The theme of cross-cultural influence and exchange runs through the 22nd edition of Le French May, which also marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France.

As in the past, the arts festival, which runs from March to July in Hong Kong and Macau, is divided into broad categories of exhibitions, performances, film and food.

Another exhibition highlight will be "Fabienne Verdier: Crossing Signs", which looks at how Chinese calligraphy and its techniques have influenced the French painter's artistic practice.

On the performing arts front, the Hong Kong Sinfonietta will team up with Raphael Sévere for Weber's Clarinet Concerto No 1; the Hong Kong Phil will have a programme featuring music by French composers Olivier Messiaen and Joseph Canteloube; Nice Opera Ballet will stage Marco Polo, a dance piece based on the novel Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino; and hip hop dance champions Pockemon Crew will make their Hong Kong debut in And ... Action!

Finally French Shadows: All Eyes on China (from May 9 to May 31) will, through a selection of 25 films, look at how Chinese and French cinema have fed off one another in the past century.

Bookings for Le French May open on Mar 10