Museum of Art to exhibit Wan Qingli's collection of Chinese art and calligraphy (with photos)

     About 140 artifacts including paintings, calligraphy, seals and letters by pivotal artists of the 20th century selected from the collection of acclaimed art historian and painter Professor Wan Qingli will be displayed in an exhibition titled "Bonds of Memory: Wan Qingli's Collection of Chinese Art Given by His Teachers and Friends" at Hong Kong Museum of Art from tomorrow (December 13) until April 23.

     The opening ceremony of the exhibition was held today (December 12). Officiating guests included the Under Secretary for Home Affairs, Ms Florence Hui; Professor Wan Qingli; the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mrs Betty Fung; and the Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Miss Eve Tam.

     Speaking at the opening ceremony, Ms Hui noted that the paintings, calligraphies, seal carvings and handwritten letters by 54 artists have been selected from Professor Wan's private collection for display in the exhibition. She noted that these exhibits, all given to Professor Wan by his teachers and friends as gifts, not only show their close affinity but also bear testimony to the social changes and development of art on the Mainland in the 20th century.

     "Through the exhibits, we can see Wu Zuoren and his wife Xiao Shufang's encouragement for younger painters, Li Keran's teachings to his students, Lu Yanshao's painting theories and their practice, and Huang Yongyu's advice on life for his 'old apprentice'. This is also the distinguishing feature of the exhibition.

     "As Professor Wan remarked, collecting 'is a testament of affection and affinity.' Indeed, it is the story or emotions embodied in a piece of artwork, rather than its market value, that touches our hearts," said Ms Hui.

     Professor Wan was admitted to the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in 1963. When the Cultural Revolution began his "out-of-favour" family background led to his imprisonment in the so-called "ox-shed", a makeshift prison at the CAFA where those accused of counter-revolutionary acts were labelled as "ox-demons" or "snake-spirits" and detained. While imprisoned the young Wan became close friends with professors of the CAFA who were much older than him, and he often describes these bygone hardships as a blessing in disguise. His "friends of the ox-shed" included Li Keran, Wu Zuoren, Huang Yongyu, Li Kuchan and Guo Weiqu.

     Wan became a student of Li Keran and Lu Yanshao in 1973 and 1976 respectively, learning much from these two great masters who were collectively known as "Lu of the South and Li of the North". His studies took him to the United States in 1984 and he started teaching at the University of Hong Kong in 1989. In 2006 he became Founding Director and Visual Arts Professor at the Academy of Visual Arts of Hong Kong Baptist University, where he remained until his retirement in 2011. A teacher for over 20 years, Wan shared his reservoir of knowledge in cultivating generations of fine art talents in Hong Kong.

     The exhibition will be divided into five chronological sections:

(1) "Little Friend of the Ox-Shed" (1963íV1973) - During the Cultural Revolution, Wan was detained in a makeshift prison at the CAFA in Beijing known as the ox-shed, where he met Li Kuchan, Li Keran, Guo Weiqu, Wu Zuoren and Huang Yongyu.

(2) "Returning from Farm Labour, Days at the Beijing Fine Art Academy" (1973-1979) - Wan returned to the capital and entered the Beijing Fine Art Academy after being sent to perform farm labour during the "Down to the Countryside Movement". Works from Wan's seniors and colleagues like Cui Zifan, Yin Shoushi, Pan Jiezi, Lou Shibai, Zhou Sicong, Zhang Renzhi and Shi Qi will be included in this section.

(3) "Back to the Central Academy of Fine Arts" (1979-1984) - Wan was accepted as a student of Lu Yanshao, then re-enrolled at the CAFA. The letters and landscape paintings by Lu on display record Wan's enthusiasm for art. This period also includes works by artists from different art institutes including Lin Sanzhi, Fei Xinwo, Fang Zengxian and Lu Kunfeng.

(4) "A Nationalist with an Elitist Overseas Doctorate" (1984-1989) - Handwritten letters between Wan and his teachers Wu Zuoren, Xiao Shufang and Lu Yanshao during his study sojourn in America illustrate the exchange of noble inspiration and true affection between them.

(5) "A Retainer at Universities in Hong Kong" (1989íV2011) - Wan taught at the University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Baptist University. Works by his friends including Qi Gong, Yang Renkai, Huang Junshi, Hu Yongkai, Lu Fusheng and Li Geng relate to Wan's teaching life in Hong Kong.

     Exhibits also include some of the seals engraved by Wan's friends including Han Tianheng, Wu Zijian, Wang Yong and Zhang Zining. Moreover, each work will also be coupled with Wan's anecdotes and stories, giving viewers the sense that they can almost share the past with the masters.

     To tie in with the exhibition, the Hong Kong Museum of Art will hold a series of lectures. Professor Wan will converse with the artist Wong Hurk-marn and the Executive Dean of Li Keran Academy of Fine Arts, Li Geng, in a talk titled "When We were Young" on December 14. He will also share his stories between the exhibits at the talk "Bonds of Memory: Stories Behind the Exhibits" on December 21. Conducted in Putonghua, the two talks will be held from 2.30pm to 4.30pm at the 1/F lobby of the museum. Seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

     A fully illustrated catalogue of the exhibition is also available at the 1/F lobby of the Hong Kong Museum of Art.

     The Hong Kong Museum of Art is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It is open from 10am to 6pm on weekdays and from 10am to 7pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. On Christmas Eve and Chinese New Year's Eve, the museum opens at 10am and closes at 5pm. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays) and the first two days of the Chinese New Year. Admission is $10 and a half-price concession is available to full-time students, senior citizens and people with disabilities. Group tickets at $7 each are available to groups of 20 persons or more. Admission is free on Wednesdays.

     For further information, call 2721 0116 or visit the Hong Kong Museum of Art's website at

Ends/Thursday, December 12, 2013
Issued at HKT 19:00