Category Archives: Exhibitions

Studio Ghibli Layout Designs: Understanding the Secrets of Takahata and Miyazaki Animation @ Hong Kong Heritage Museum review

Hong Kong Heritage Museum Studio Ghibli

Of all the museums in the city, I seem to find myself back at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum the most often (somewhat annoying, given it’s probably the one that’s also the furthest away from me!), and the latest exhibition to entice me over to the Shing Mun River was Studio Ghibli Layout Designs: Understanding the Secrets of Takahata and Miyazaki Animation. I can’t claim to be a devoted Hayao Miyazaki fan – but like everyone else, I love Spirited Away and think Totoro is really cute, so why not?!

Studio Ghibli Layout Designs Hong Kong Heritage MuseumSpirited Away room, from news.gov.hk

The Studio Ghibli Layout Designs exhibition comprises over 1,300 drawings from the animation process behind the films of Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki – from their earliest works on television shows like Heidi: A Girl Of The Alps and Sherlock Hound, right through to the studio’s latest film releases The Wind Rises (Miyazaki’s last film) and The Tale of The Princess Kaguya.

Unlike many animation houses, Studio Ghibli continues to make all its films using traditional hand-drawn methods; rather than cute character studies, the works shown are more the backgrounds of scenes (layouts are regarded as blueprints for the film and are vital for its continuity), displaying the director’s ideas on colour, perspective, motion and other camera effects – and these sketches are practically artworks in themselves.

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Mid-Autumn Festival Hong Kong 2011, Moon Fun Playground lantern exhibition: Fairground attraction!

Mid-Autumn Festival is rolling round again (four day weekend, hollaaaa!), so what better time to bring you… a full year late… the gorgeous lanterns from last year’s festivities?!

My advice is to bypass the crowds at Victoria Park and instead head to Tsim Sha Tsui’s Cultural Centre Piazza, where every year they have an awesome thematic lantern exhibition. It stays on display for a full month (much longer than the ones at Victoria Park), is less crowded (especially if you hit it when everyone else is having their dinner or when they are otherwise occupied with the Symphony Of Lights show), provides almost an hour’s worth of photo opportunities and intense study of all the amazing close-up details of each lantern, plus you can then get the Star Ferry home and admire HK’s amazing skyline… its very own modern cityscape of a lantern show.

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Atelier Versace Exhibition, Pacific Place: Gonna dress you up in my love!

I love beautiful dresses. I love seeing them, buying them, wearing them and, as this blog proves, writing about them too! Sadly, with the most beautiful designer dresses worn by the most beautiful celebrities, that’s about as close as I get – seeing them on a computer screen and then detailing my lust in writing afterwards. But not anymore…

Kawai Wong, the lovely Shopping & Style Editor of Time Out Hong Kong, tipped off her followers on Twitter that there would be a mini Atelier Versace exhibition in Pacific Place shopping mall. I made a mental note and promptly forgot all about it but as chance would have it, I just happened to be in Pacific Place that weekend – and thank God I was. Because I got to see some of those beautiful dresses that I had previously only written about IN PERSON. And they were BREATH-TAKING.

Apologies for all the caps but as you can see from the photos, upper-case in this case is totally deserved!

I squealed with delight when I saw this stunning  gown that I adored on Charlize Theron at the Vanity Fair Oscars Party standing there in all its glory right in front of my eyes! This was my favourite gown of the lot simply because I remembered writing how much I loved it – and there it was!

Even on the mannequins, everything draped just so and looked utterly beautiful. This gown was worn by Eva Mendes at the Rome Film Festival last year. I didn’t really like the dress in photos but up-close, all the detailing was just exquisite. What was missing was the gorgeous sense of movement that Eva managed to create but I think this proves just how much a million flash bulbs wash out a dress, as it was much more of a vibrant tan colour in person.

This cobalt beauty was worn by Jessica Alba at this year’s Baftas and was another one I wrote about! She worn it sans feathers but this was every bit as vividly gorgeous in person. I love how effortlessly flowing it is.

This cascading grey ombre dress hasn’t been worn by anyone famous – yet! Love the cut-out detail on the back too. Stunning. By now, I was nearly going into seizure at being close enough to touch these gowns. Waaaah… just one stroke!

Fan Bing Bing’s ruffled purple gown (as worn at the Cannes Film Festival, which marked the beginning of many of our style crushes on The Bingster) was probably the true show-stopper of the collection. It was just so big, pouffy and spectacular in real-life. Again, the detail of all those flounces was just amazingly lush up-close. It was so delicate yet dramatic and that skirt looked like it was made up of crush flower petals. Divine.

There was lots of ‘oh my God’-ing and longing sighing that my boyfriend didn’t totally understand but ugh, I need more of these exhibitions in my life! Just five dresses isn’t enough! Hurry up and get that Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty show on the road to Hong Kong please!

Atelier Versace Exhibition, Pacific Place mall, Admiralty

Sweet like Chocolate Rain

I promised you more Chocolate Rain cuteness after my post on Hong Kong Creative Ecologies and whaddya know… it doesn’t just rain here but it pours!

The mall in Olympian City (yes, named after the Olympics) had a super-kawaii installation dedicated to Chocolate Rain and I couldn’t resist taking some photos, much to my boyfriend’s annoyance (‘You’re so local’).

I’m more used to shopping centres in the UK too depressing to even warrant a George A Romero-style zombie stampede but malls in HK are a totally different ball game. [Remember that awesome Lane Crawford installation in Pacific Place?]

What’s more, there are so many malls here that it’s a competitive game, especially during Christmas and other special occasions, where they all attempt to out-do each other with special decorations, performances, giveaways and exhibits – HK folk do love their photo opps, after all! Hence the Chocolate Rain one here, called Olympian City’s Easter Dream Brûlée.

I just love artist Prudence Mak’s distinctive patchwork style for Chocolate Rain – absolutely lovely and just that little bit quirky too – and I love that a locally-designed brand can challenge the cute character powerhouse that is Sanrio. But most of all, as you know, I just love pretty things! And this delivered pretty things in abundance.

The Fatina doll character was dressed in colourful costumes inspired by different ice-cream flavours whilst the centrepiece was a 30-foot banana boat. Overall, it felt like I’d wandered into a village straight from a fairytale!

Truly scrumptious!

Hong Kong: Creative Ecologies @ HK Heritage Museum – Like peas in a pod!

During our trip to the Pixar: 25 Years Of Animation exhibition at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, we had a quick scoot round the rest of the place. Emphasis on quick – you’ll have noticed my usual grumble about crappy café quality (see Museum of Coastal Defence, History Museum and Botanical Gardens posts for further moaning) was missing from the Pixar write-up… because this time there wasn’t an eating facility at all!

Sadly, nothing was as awesome as the colourful display of Fei-Fei’s plus-sized cheongsams we stumbled upon when we visited the Age Of Couture Exhibition (a greater aesthetic juxtaposition you could not imagine!). Yes, HK ‘affectionately’ nicknamed their much-beloved actress cum singer cum media personality Lydia Sum something that translates as ‘Fatty’!

This time, we happened upon the Hong Kong: Creative Ecologies exhibition – or what of it had been placed in the foyer of the second floor. Dozens of identical ‘Tin Tin’ figurines, all decorated, styled and re-imagined in different ways by various home-grown artists and designers.

It was fascinating to see how so many people could take one identical thing and end up with something so different yet still recognisable. Designs ranged from the beautiful to the comical to the bizarre to the slightly macabre (I didn’t take a photo of the one that had been mocked up to look like a see-through human body, with all the vital organs glowing inside, as it freaked me out too much), whilst many had a uniquely HK flavour – one had a map of our MTR system, another had silhouettes of our trademark bamboo scaffolding system with workers hanging out un-harnessed and causing heart attacks to Western Health & Safety bodies.

My favourites were the ones who thought ‘outside the box’ and mixed it up a little. I noticed that whilst many of the fashion and accessory designers decorated their models, the artistes chose to do more abstract things – like one completely encased in a steel box, with just that recognisable pointing finger sticking out, or the one that appears to be melting. I was engrossed by the one that seemed to have sprouted alarmingly naturalistic-looking roots and was even growing foliage up top!

The only HK artist whose work I recognised instantly was Prudence Mak. That distinctive bright patchwork style couldn’t belong to anyone but the founder of cute quirky local brand, Chocolate Rain, who you will hear more of later…! Apologies for the picture quality – I haven’t figured out how to minimise the reflections caused by the glass cases – so I’ve compared it with a nice HQ photo from the Heritage Museum’s website so you can see it in all its detailed technicolour glory!

Hopefully these will be kept together as a display once the exhibition has ended and housed somewhere else, as they’re far more powerful and dynamic as a collection rather than if they were split up. It’s certainly nothing to warrant a special visit to the Heritage Museum (though apparently there was a Creative Ecologies gallery that I was too hungry to visit), but it’s a cool little diversion nonetheless! Enjoy!

Hong Kong: Creative Ecologies, 5 Feburary-11 May 2011, Hong Kong Heritage Museum, 1 Man Lam Road, Sha Tin, 2180 8188. See Hong Kong: Creative Ecologies Website for further details.

$10 admission, free on Weds. Opening hours: 10am-6pm, 7pm on Sunday and public holidays. Closed Tuesdays.

Pixar: 25 Years Of Animation exhibition @ Hong Kong Heritage Museum review

Every so often, I do try and escape the confines of my nail polish packed bedroom and see the real world. Previous escapes have included seeing a waterfall, a load of beautiful qipao, a load of quirky lanterns, a silent Hitchcock film and most recently, a stunning array of Spring flowers. My latest venture – a trip to Hong Kong Heritage Museum’s special exhibition, Pixar: 25 Years Of Animation.

The Hong Kong Heritage Museum is quite a trek away, up in Sha Tin near the Shing Mun river (get off at Che Kung Temple Station on the brown KCR line for a shorter walk), so any exhibition that has me making the long slog up there had better be a good one! The last time I visited was for the Golden Age Of Couture dress exhibition, held in conjunction with London’s V&A Museum, which was utterly spectacular (and which I will get around to writing about some time, promise!). Meanwhile, the fact that I am a Disney/Pixar geek of the highest order – prone to parroting facts learnt from audio commentaries whilst my boyfriend tries to watch and breaking into Under The Sea on public transport are specialities – meant the omens seemed good.

The Pixar: 25 Years Of Animation exhibition showcases various types of conceptual and character art done by the studio’s artists for all of Pixar’s work, giving some artistic insight into the painstaking process that goes into making their much-loved CGI films. Taking in over 400 items, from early pencil sketches to storyboards, maquettes (small scale models) and exclusive specially-designed media installations, it features some never-before-seen-outside-the-studio artwork, with Hong Kong’s Heritage Museum the first stop on a global tour. A similar exhibition toured five years ago (including a stop in Singapore) but it has been refreshed and reinvigorated with the addition of new items, such as a large and extremely popular section dedicated to Toy Story 3. There’s also the amazing Toy Story Zoetrope (which you can also see at Hong Kong Disneyland), featuring rotating sculptures of characters that seem to magically come to life before your eyes.

We arrived early afternoon on a non-school holiday weekday and the queue was the biggest I have ever seen for a museum in HK. Having seen some photos taken by people who went on Easter Holiday weekend showing 300-strong queues, thank God we went when we did! Much of the artwork shown was obviously never intended to be displayed in a gallery and as such, there’s a limit on how huge a crowd can cluster around an A4 sized drawing and get much out of the experience.

Picture from Pixar artist Lou Romano’s blog, where you can also see his entire colour script for Up

There are two galleries devoted to the exhibition, the first dealing with character and the second with environment and scene-setting. The huge number of children visiting will obviously enjoy the Woody, Buzz, Sully and Mike models that greet you at the museum’s entrance, yet whether they have much appreciation for conceptual artwork of, say, Parisian landscapes in Ratatouille remains to be seen. Sure enough, the first exhibition gallery, which boasts the large Toy Story 3 section, a fairly big selection of Monsters Inc stuff (poor old Wall-E, one of my favourite Pixar films, sadly only gets about a quarter of a wall!) and lots of maquettes of characters, is the more family-friendly and consequently, much busier and noisier. Meanwhile, the second gallery is a much more tranquil and sedate experience!

As a full-blown Disney geek who exhaustively watches all the making-of features on her DVDs (or did before they started moving them to Blu-Ray only), some of the artwork was familiar to me already, especially for the earlier films, and I’m not entirely sure you garner that much more from looking at the originals rather than digital copies. Some art (particularly storyboards and colour scripts) have even been enlarged to suit the gallery experience more, in which case you’re looking at reprints anyway!

[By the way, you’re not meant to take photos inside the exhibition galleries. Not that this stops many HK folk. But I play fair, meaning the photos in this post are either taken outside or by scouring the net to find the pictures I’m referring to! (Further proof, incidentally, that lots of it may already be familiar to us geeks.)]

Pictures from Hong Kong Heritage Museum and Oakland Museum Of California

Nevertheless, the artwork itself is brilliant. What part of the exhibition you enjoy the most is strictly down to taste but my favourites were the wistful colourful designs for Up and its dreamy South American landscapes (you get to see a life-size version of the Paradise Falls mural that Ellie and Carl paint above their fireplace in the film) and the spiky dynamic work by Lou Romano for The Incredibles (the style seen in the film’s credits) – looking at the art, I could practically hear that exhilarating thrilling score pumping into my head!

A few interesting titbits to note: some character studies are annotated with comprehensive notes seemingly from John Lasseter himself (‘Dot is not so cute with 4 arms!’, ‘No antenna here’), with some Finding Nemo sketches stamped with a fish bearing John Lasseter’s head saying ‘I guess it’s alright’, whilst others are marked as checked by the man himself with a doodle-like representation of Lasseter’s face!

I’m also in awe of the fact that so much life comes out of these pencil sketches alone. Just a few lines manage to create a sense of motion and vitality even before the mammoth digitalisation process begins. I love this one of Russell, above, which totally captures his bustling sense of movement – Disney geek-dom ahoy, the character’s original name was changed to the onomatopoeic Russell to reflect his inquisitive nature. There’s also two maquettes of Russell where each and every Explorer Badge has been sculpted, with different designs on every single one!

The Up storyboards and colour scripts are also fascinating. There’s one storyboard just of that first 10-minute dialogue-free segment ‘Married Life’ and, in just a few small still-life pictures, it still managed to make me well up! Truly powerful stuff.

The second ‘environment’ gallery feels a lot more abstract in comparison to the ‘character’ one. You enter a room where the walls are covered with animations of the doors from Monsters Inc and the effect is quite hypnotic. I really loved some of the (at times, surprisingly dark) concept art for the settings of Monsters Inc, whilst all the pictures involving those huge cascades of doors are just wildly imaginative and wonderful. This gallery also contains, for me, the absolute highlight: Artscape.

Artscape is a highly-immersive, richly-detailed wide-screen projection that takes you inside the artists’ sketchbooks and experience environments from all the films in first-person. Frankly, it’s more 3D than most 3D movies. It’s indescribable and something you just have to experience for yourself. You feel like you’re swooping through the jungle and dashing across water in the chase sequence from The Incredibles, that you’re ant-size amongst the blades of grass, leaves and army of workers in A Bug’s Life or that you’re hurtling through the galaxies in Wall-E (oh ok, that one did feel a little like a Windows 95 screensaver!). I particularly fell for the Parisian scenes from Ratatouille – one of my least favourite Pixars – which felt like you were flying above the rooftops, looking down and around the city in all its romantic glory. This is all done by some trademark Pixar magic that manages to turn 2D drawings and paintings into a 3D visceral experience. Stunning.

Pictures from The Art Of Ratatouille book, featured on Pixar Talk

Despite the cutesy Pixar characters, Pixar: 25 Years Of Animation was definitely not designed with small children, nor I suspect the HK hoards, in mind (for example, there are kiosks where you can watch interviews with animators that can only be used one person at a time, whilst I struggled to see the small screens showing early Pixar shorts in just the small crowd that day). Whilst I enjoyed it, if I’d have seen queues of hundreds, I’d have definitely turned back round – I just don’t think you can give the artwork the attention it deserves if you’re having to elbow your way in or become absorbed in the detail if you can barely hear yourself think.

Pixar: 25 Years Of Animation is a largely captivating exhibition, although one which requires you to appreciate the animators’ work as art rather than pure entertainment. It makes you recognise the scale of Pixar’s achievements and value the dedication and talent of their artists even more. This is stuff that deserves to be on walls rather than hidden away in dusty backrooms and I would love to see a similar exhibition for Disney films (some of the concept art for their older films, as seen on DVDs, is just stunning). So, yes, worth the trek to Sha Tin. Make it on a week day, though!

Check out some more fun Pixar artwork here

Pixar: 25 Years Of Animation, 28 March-11 July 2011, Hong Kong Heritage Museum, 1 Man Lam Road, Sha Tin, 2180 8188

$20 admission, $10 on Weds, including free memo gift pad containing money-off vouchers. Opening hours: 10am-6pm, 7pm on Sunday and public holidays. Closed Tuesdays.

You’re history! (Like a beat-up car!): Hong Kong Museum Of History review

‘The History Museum perpetuates the myth that Hong Kong has no culture by providing a sterile and clinical retelling of Hong Kong’s rich past.’

History geek boyfriend (shown above) on Hong Kong’s History Museum

This review of Hong Kong’s Museum Of History was a long time coming. You may have seen my review of their special exhibition The Evergreen Classic: Transformation Of The Qipao but I actually managed to check out their main exhibition, The Hong Kong Story, twice in the space of two weeks. Not through scholarly enthusiasm but on a trip with my kindergarten class and again, when my boyfriend and I showed up a month early for aforementioned qipao exhibition – and I’m afraid that I wasn’t too impressed.

The Hong Kong Story contains a lot of what I brand ‘fake history’ – lots of replicas and not many authentic artefacts. It traces Hong Kong from its beginnings as a barely-populated jungle filled with tigers (apparently) through its time as a British colony via displays about traditional Chinese folk culture before reaching modern-day HK. But given it opts for building replicas of trams, boats, fishermen, puppets, a tower of buns, schools, banks and practically everything else you can think of, the true authentic visceral sense of history is forsaken. Most of your information is gleaned from reading the placards beside each replica (or listening to your audio guide!) and looking at blown-up reprinted old photographs, meaning that you’re not really getting that much of a different experience from reading a history textbook, except you’re getting to stretch your legs and battle snap-happy visitors in the process.

In my opinion, the most riveting part of Hong Kong’s history is wartime and the Japanese occupation – parts which are dealt with much more effectively and movingly in the Museum Of Coastal Defence, which at least has some genuine bullet-strewn walls, cannons, caponniers and torpedoes to make for a more well-rounded experience (plus there’s currently the amazing Escape To Wai Chow exhibition – check out the full review here).

Elsewhere, it’s only interesting to those who have absolutely no working knowledge of Hong Kong’s history and given the plastic-ness of most of the exhibits, it doesn’t really reward repeated visits – although obviously I overdid it a bit! It’s certainly not an essential tourist stop nor, speaking from experience, is it much fun for very young visitors.

My photos illustrate the few parts that, not being too bothered by models of Neanderthals making fire in prehistoric HK, I actually did find interesting. And oh dear, déjà vu, it includes some vintage calendar prints of girls wearing qi pao. Moving on…

This is the interior of one of HK’s oldest traditional Chinese medicine shops. A REAL interior, not a fake replica. When it closed its doors for the last time, the LCSD managed to procure its décor and stick it in the history museum. There’s also an audio recording from the shop’s owner (plus English translation!). It’s interesting because it feels real and what with Hong Kong’s record in demolishing sites of historical interest, the sort of thing the government should be doing much more of. You’ll find it in a street filled with less interesting replicas of other early Hong Kong shops.

Social history inevitably has a lot more to offer than a plastic model. The section on Hong Kong’s early schooling system has glass cases filled with old exercise books and report cards. and, if you can decipher the spidery handwriting, being basically quite nosy is always absorbing!

I know it might sound like my bugbear, having gone on about it at other tourist destinations (like the Museum Of Coastal Defence and the Botanical Gardens), but the eating facilities here would be the laughing stock of any Western cultural hotspot. The Museum Of History’s school cafeteria may be cheap, clean and offer an abundance of chicken wings, but it could be so much more. Flogging a mix of instant noodles and junk food (not in one dish… although I wouldn’t put it past them), it mostly serves as a last resort or for people looking for somewhere quiet where they can crab free Wifi for as long as possible. It did, however, have beautiful lamps made to look like birdcages.

Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by having “real history” in practically every back garden in the UK, but I found the Hong Kong Museum Of History’s Hong Kong Story exhibition rather uninspiring. I’d rather pick up a history book from Page One and hop across the way to the Science Museum, which is a LOT more fun. And hopefully you’ll believe me when I say that I’ll review that museum very soon – i.e. sometime before 2012, fingers crossed!

The Hong Kong Story, Hong Kong Museum of History, 100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon, 2724 9042.

Opening hours: Monday, Wednesday- Saturday, 10am-6pm, Sunday and Public Holiday 10am-7pm, closed Tuesdays. Admission $10 (free on Wednesdays). For further details, visit their website here.