Owl-shaped vases, plates depicting bullfights and pots adorned with female faces are among more than 100 ceramics painted by Pablo Picasso to go on display in the city today.
The exhibition of the Spanish artist's ceramics and lithographs at the University Museum and Art Gallery of the University of Hong Kong is the first public show of the London-based Nina Miller Collection of Picasso Ceramics. Admission is free.
It is thought to be the first time the artist's work in the medium has been shown in Hong Kong. A visit to the Madoura Pottery in Vallauris in the south of France in the late 1940s, and a friendship with its owners, sparked the artist's interest in painting ceramics. He produced about 4,000 such works until his death in 1973.
Picasso would take a piece produced by the pottery and use its shape to depict people or animals. In one black and red piece he painted the handles of a jug as the wings of a bird while on other jugs he used the spout for a beak. The rim of a plate was used to show spectators at a bullring.
Picasso designed the ceramics as household objects, rather than pieces for collectors, hoping his vases would be used for water at the dining table.
"But at the same time he was making them into individual pieces that were unique Picassos, so it doesn't really go together," museum director Florian Knothe said. In the 30 years before his death, the artist experimented with ceramics and woodcut methods on ceramic tiles.
"He did ceramics in silver, he did woodblocks later on that showed his artistic excellence," Knothe said of the exhibition. "It's not so much about showing the best ones but it's more to show the whole variety."
Visitors were intrigued to see a different side of Picasso's work.
"The bullfighting motif is quite interesting because it connects to the culture I know," said HKU politics student Megan Gardner, 20.
"Wherever I go I will visit [Picasso] exhibitions," said solicitor Florence Yuen. "I enjoyed his paintings to start with but did not know he was so productive."
The collection will be displayed until November 2.