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Winter 2018 Academic Programme: Cultural Ambassadors from the Middle Kingdom: Influences of Export Art in the West (in English)

16 Jan 2018 - 19 Mar 2018 19:00 - 20:30
Winter 2018 Academic Programme:
Cultural Ambassadors from the Middle Kingdom: How Export Art Influenced the West
In collaboration with the University Museum and Art Gallery (UMAG) of the University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Maritime Museum (HKMM) continues its Academic Programme in Spring 2018 with the lecture series ‘Cultural Ambassadors from the Middle Kingdom: Influences of Export Art in the West’. 
Coinciding with HKMM’s upcoming exhibition The Silver Age: Origins and Trade of Chinese Export Silver and UMAG’s Objectifying China: Ming and Qing Dynasty Ceramics and Their Stylistic Influences Abroad, in this series four expert speakers will discuss how the European desire for commodities and luxury goods from China (tea, silks, lacquerware, silverware and porcelain) led to the development of a new hybrid art forms that combined the best aspects of Asian and European design.
*The Silver Age: Origins and Trade of Chinese Export Silver
16 January, 2018(Tue)
Dr. Libby Chan, 
Assistant Director (Curatorial and Collections), Hong Kong Maritime Museum 
This talk is based on the curatorial research for the Silver Age exhibition at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, and discusses the origins and trade of Chinese export silver. The talk will cover how Chinese export silver relates to “Chinoiseries” developed in Europe, export ceramics sent to the West during the 16th to the 18th century, as well as the active maritime trade between China and Southeast Asia in the age of globalisation. In addition, the talk will also focus on export silverware made in Hong Kong and its relationship with other workshops in the Pearl River Delta Region during the 19th and the 20th century.   
#Visions of the East: The Reception of Chinese and Japanese Ceramics in Europe
30 January, 2018 (Tue)
Benjamin Chiesa, 
Assistant Curator, the University Museum and Art Gallery, HKU
Maritime Asia was as vast as it was varied, and the response in Europe to the arrival of the goods from far-off places like Japan and China was correspondingly diverse. At times the arts of China and Japan were seen as a sort of ‘fancy’ or fantasy for collectors, and were interpreted through a purely European vision of the Orient. At others, artists made real efforts to understand what made the artistic traditions of these countries unique. 
In this talk, the curator of Objectifying China looks at how ceramics brought to Europe through trade and the World Expositions of the nineteenth century influenced collectors, artists, and institutions, resulting in centuries of cross-cultural enrichment.
*Shifting Standards: Consuming Chinese export silverwares in the West
13 February, 2018(Tue)
Susan Eberhard,
Blakemore Freeman Fellow
History of Art PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley
Why did British and American consumers buy Chinese export silverwares, even though the majority of these objects were sold without guarantee of fineness? By discussing several examples in the contexts of nineteenth-century global collecting, I identify what qualities -- both visible and invisible — made them desirable to buyers who lived around the world. 
In the nineteenth century as today, Chinese artisans, craftsmen and laborers collectively produced a dazzling array of objects to meet the tastes of foreign traders, clients, and faraway consumers. The value of a Chinese-made good such as porcelain was more-or-less evident to buyers in Europe and the United States, due to the material's visible and tangible material qualities. But silverwares, made from a material with a monetary value quantifiable by weight and alloy concentration, were less trustworthy. Nonetheless, Chinese-made silverwares were sold to Westerners, the vast majority without any recorded guarantee of their silver content. 
In this talk, I will consider why southern Chinese silversmithing firms and shops were successful in making and marketing silverwares for English and American taste despite the lack of quality regulation. Looking closely at many examples of Chinese export silverwares such as tea sets and other tablewares, trophies and jewelry, I will track patterns in how makers conveyed ideas of value and luxury to buyers through strategic design decisions. I will also describe the different ways and means of assessing the value of the silver that coexisted in the port of Guangzhou in the early-to-mid nineteenth century. Silver in this context was an omnipresent part of everyday life; as an American merchant noted in his memoir, “one could never move without seeing heaps of silver being examined and hearing its metallic ring as successive quantities were poured in and out of copper scales. Scarcely a day or even an hour passed without this glittering accompaniment of old Canton life.” Circulating alongside the copper coins minted by the Chinese government, silver was the primary currency of trade in the port. It was exchanged by weight, and thus it came in many forms, such as the Spanish dollar imported by European and American traders by the ton. As the threat of counterfeiting was high, it was also a material under constant scrutiny. I will explore how the viability of Chinese export silverwares for sale to distant consumers was engineered in response to the contested value of silver in maritime Guangzhou. 
# ‘White Gold’: Influences and Adaptions in Ceramic and Glassmaking in Central Europe” (in English)
27 February, 2018(Tue)
Dr. Florian Knothe, Director, University Museum & Art Gallery, the University of Hong Kong
In 16th century Florence, Lorenzo the Magnificent’s great-great-grandson, Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici (1549–1609), became an incomparable philanthropist and patron of the arts and an enthusiastic collector of Chinese porcelain. Through his generosity and diplomatic gifts, such exotica reached other European courts, notably that of Elector Christian I of Saxony (1560–1591) in 1590. During the following centuries, these objects stimulated scientific experiments and a widespread fascination with Chinese—mostly blue-and-white—porcelain and imitations thereof. 
This lecture focuses on the influence of Chinese porcelain over early European porcelain and glassmaking, as the desire to imitate Asian porcelain in the West led scientists to experimentation in both clay and glass. The technological advances that resulted from these efforts include the discovery of kaolin and its successful conversion into hard-paste porcelain like that of Asia, in Dresden in 1708. Throughout the 18th century, ceramists and glassworkers continued to fashion sought-after objects that were inspired, both in style and in decoration, by Asian and other European wares.
Dr. Florian Knothe studies and teaches the history of decorative arts in the 17th and 18th centuries with particular focus on the social and historic importance of royal French manufacture. Dr. Knothe started his career at The Metropolitan Museum of Art focusing on European Sculpture and Decorative Arts before he oversaw the European and East Asian collections at The Corning Museum of Glass. He now serves as Director of the University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, and teaches for the university's Faculty of Art and Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences.
# China in Asia: Export Ceramics in Southeast Asia and the Islamic World
19 March, 2018(Mon)
Kan Shuyi, Curator, Asian Civilisations Museum
Centuries before the establishment of direct trade with Europe in the 16th century, Chinese porcelain and stoneware was being exported to major ports in India, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East—part of a lively trade in intra-Asian ceramics. These exchanges deeply influenced the ceramic production both in China and abroad. Kan Shuyi discusses the role of this early export trade in the development of blue-and-white ceramics, as well as later ceramics made for Mughal India and Southeast Asia—which by the 19th century had grown to include lively polychrome "nyonya wares" for Peranakan communities in Singapore, Malacca, Penang, and Jakarta.
* Venue: Hong Kong Maritime Museum (HKMM)
# Venue: the University Museum and Art Gallery (UMAG) of the University of Hong Kong 
Free admission and no booking required.