How a show with HK$500m worth of Chinese ink paintings can restore the art to former glory

Largest display of Chinese work ever staged in city has ambitious mission

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 July, 2017, 3:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 July, 2017, 11:25pm

One of the world’s largest exhibitions of Chinese ink paintings will be held in Hong Kong on Friday, with an ambitious mission by its curator to redraw the landscape of the Chinese art world and restore the genre to its former glory.

The works of renowned painters Wong Wing-yuk, 93, and Chinese culture scholar Professor Jao Tsung-i will be among some 500 pieces on show at Ink Global 2017 at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. It will be the largest display of Chinese ink paintings ever staged in Hong Kong.

“Ink paintings used to have prime status. They were collected by emperors,” said curator Kwok Ho-mun, who runs the Wan Fung Art Gallery. “I want to make ink painting great again. Unlike porcelain works which can be mass produced, each one is unique.”

He said the exhibition would demonstrate different styles and techniques of ink painting.

“Take the example of Flower and Birds by Wong Wing-yuk – it displays his eye for beauty and creativity. At first he did not want to take part. But eventually he agreed, and even drew a new painting for this show,” Kwok said.

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The event will feature works in all five major themes of ink painting, comprising people (with works by Wang Ming-ming), flowers and birds (Wong Wing-yuk), animals (Xing Cheng-ai), modern art (Wacius Wang) and natural scenery (Wang Chang-kai).

The exhibition, part of the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule, is organised by the Young Artists Development Foundation.

The works are worth an ­estimated HK$500 million, with some individual pieces valued at HK$30 million. The logistics of transporting 500 paintings, mostly from Beijing, to Hong Kong were challenging.

Kwok said: “We have works from other Chinese cities and other countries like Japan, too. The furthest is from Iceland by a Westerner who learned his ink painting from a Chinese master.”

He said Poly Auction from Beijing and a Taiwanese auctioneer had contacted him, but the ­exhibits were not for sale at the show, although interested buyers could contact the owners.

“Ink paintings by deceased artists are valued, but their works are running out. So it is important that works by living artists get recognition and status,” Kwok said.