Masterpieces from Britain’s prestigious National Gallery to go on show in Hong Kong for first time from Wednesday

Masterpieces from the collection of Britain’s prestigious National Gallery will be exhibited in Hong Kong for the first time from Wednesday at the Palace Museum, with the director of the UK institution calling the collaboration “extremely promising”.

Visitors to “Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery” will see 52 paintings from the 15th to 20th centuries, including works by 50 famed artists such as Raphael, Rembrandt, Monet, and Van Gogh and covering artistic styles from the Renaissance to Post-Impressionism.

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, the director of the National Gallery, said the collaboration had been two years in the making and it was a great opportunity to showcase the collection to an Asian audience because the gallery had not mounted many travelling exhibitions.

“We’ve seen over the past 15 years a growth in tourism to the UK, we’ve seen a lot of young people coming to school or university in Britain, a lot of visitors coming to visit our gallery,” Finaldi said.

“And that’s an audience that we’d like to get to know better and develop.”

A work by Old Master Rembrandt, his “Self Portrait at the Age of 63”, created in 1669, one of the highlights of a National Gallery of Britain touring show on exhibit at the city’s Palace Museum from Wednesday. Photo: May Tse

He added that the gallery was “very keen to participate in” the Palace Museum’s international collaborations.

“The tour shows how the gallery continues to innovate in the way it designs and delivers partnerships, with the exhibition representing what is essentially the ‘National Gallery in miniature’,” he added.

Finaldi said the selection of paintings was representative of the institution’s history which was designed to give “a concise and beautiful history of Western art as uniquely told by the National Gallery’s collection”.

The director did not reveal any future collaborations between the gallery and Hong Kong, but signalled other joint efforts might follow.

“This is our first encounter – I would say it’s extremely promising,” Finaldi said.

“I’m very impressed by the kind of curation of the exhibition that’s been done locally here in Hong Kong Palace Museum.”

Master stroke: 52 famed paintings by European artists to go on show in Hong Kong

The artworks on show are divided into six sections, including Caravaggio’s Boy Bitten by a Lizard (about 1594-1595), Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 63 (1669), and Monet’s Irises (about 1914-1917).

The exhibition in Hong Kong marks the third and last stop in the gallery’s Asia tour this year after Shanghai in mainland China and Seoul in South Korea.

Works from the gallery also travelled to Australia and Japan in 2020 and 2021.

Features unique to the Hong Kong stop include the exhibition of the National Gallery’s European oil paintings with Chinese paper and silk works from the Palace Museum, Beijing also on show in the city.

The Shanghai stop of the tour was the most popular fee-charging exhibition in the history of the National Gallery and pulled in more than 420,000 visitors in its 15-week run.

The big picture: Renaissance art shown in Hong Kong as Uffizi urges closer ties

The exhibition at the Palace Museum, in the West Kowloon Cultural District, will run until April 11 next year, with standard tickets priced at HK$150 (US$19.25) and concessionary tickets at HK$75.

The exhibition is supported by the government’s Mega Arts and Cultural Events Fund, a new HK$1.4 billion scheme designed to bring major international events to Hong Kong and re-establish the city as a premier travel destination unveiled in Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu’s policy address last month.

Other events supported by the fund include the Art Basel and Art Central contemporary art fairs.

The National Gallery, founded almost 200 years ago, occupies a landmark building on London’s Trafalgar Square and its collection of art runs to about 2,300 paintings, some dating from the 13th century.

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