Despite the Renaissance artist’s fame, not everyone in Hong Kong has heard of Sandro Botticelli.
That, however, is set to change this month, with the opening of an exhibition of 42 works by Botticelli and other masters at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, and the launch of a four-month long programme of activities by First Initiative Foundation (FIF) in partnership with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the Consulate General of Italy and a host of others.
As the community partner for the exhibition, whose official title is The Hong Kong Jockey Club Series: Botticelli and His Times – Masterworks from the Uffizi, FIF has planned a series of workshops and activities designed to encourage the public to learn more about early Renaissance art – and to visit museums and galleries in general.
FIF managing director Amanda Cheung, whose mother Michelle Ong set up the foundation almost 10 years ago as a way of supporting Hong Kong’s creative community, says that the aim is “to make this exhibition very inclusive and family friendly. FIF is known for bringing unique and accessible educational and community outreach programmes to Hong Kong and we’re beyond excited to devise this special hands-on programme to complement this exhibition.”
Through a lengthy programme of activities that it’s put together, FIF hopes to empower the public to approach art by giving them the tools that provide a new lens through which they can learn to appreciate the beauty of everyday life. “The three key messages that I hope to foster and encourage,” says Cheung, “are that museums are for everyone, that art can be fun and easy to understand, and that it’s everywhere. I did a lot of research on the gap between art and the community and, after narrowing down my vision and identifying the key messages of the outreach, I enlisted help and expertise from the fields of art, education and public relations, who are all friends of FIF. I also put together a young committee consisting of a handful of my peers, so I can run ideas by them as well as make sure that we have diversity and different perspectives.”
In total, Cheung and the FIF team have devised various community outreach initiatives, the first being fun and accessible guided tours for visitors to the exhibition. Second, FIF is offering a programme of weekend workshops for the duration of the exhibition, which provide fun, interactive and engaging activities for visitors of all ages that range from coding and science-meets-art workshops for children and parents, to cocktail-mixing for adults – and all with themes or topics linking back to the exhibition. As well as the works of art themselves, the exhibition also features a wall of cards that provide a unique, role-playing unaccompanied guide. Visitors can pick the most appropriate character that matches their mood, with each providing a specially designed itinerary.
Beyond the museum, FIF has also created an illustrated storybook, an activity book and an audio book, as well as soft toys depicting two fictional characters – Sandro, a lucky boar from Italy and Trio, a three-legged toad from Hong Kong. Together, the pair work to solve a mystery that takes in a disgruntled portrait, museum magic and even delicious local cuisine. Based on the exhibition, the charming and educational story touches upon the importance of teamwork, exploration, curiosity and friendship, and will be read aloud to the public during community reading sessions.
Moreover, film industry all-rounder Andrew Lau has produced a documentary that follows the journey of the Renaissance paintings from the walls of the Uffizi to Hong Kong for this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition. Directed by Jessey Tsang, the film offers an exclusive behind-the-scenes glimpse of the knowledge and expertise necessary, as well as the immense amount of work involved, in putting together a large-scale international exhibition such as this. The film, which is to be screened as inflight entertainment by Cathay Pacific, stresses the importance of cooperation, as well as highlighting Hong Kong’s own talent.
From curation to design concept to production, each phase of putting together this exhibition has created a building block for the next stage, leading to the opening at the Hong Kong Museum of Art in late October.