Tasmania's journal of discovery

A feast for the eyes

The Wong Collection of Chinese art and antiquities at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, now some 248 pieces, is a timeline of man’s involvement with the materials around him — clay, minerals, wood, metals — from the earliest known civilizations in China in Neolithic times, dating back some 9,000 years, to today.

This is a fascinating story of man’s progress both artistically and technically.

In donating the remainder of their lifetime collection of precious objects, Professor Wong Shiu Hon and his wife Nancy displayed not only great public spirit, but also their love of our small island. You can enjoy their largesse in the informative and attractive exhibition of the new pieces currently at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart, for which we must thank Peter Hughes, Curator of Decorative Arts, and designer Hannah Gamble.

There’s so much to look at: from grotesque statues to wonderfully simple, ‘primitive’ but superb works made by unknown artisans before the potter’s wheel was even invented, to sophisticated, elegant porcelains, especially the famed Ming blue and white wares, to demons, gods and goddesses, mythical figures, and others who are all too human (one vase poignantly depicts young lovers thwarted by evil fate — that is, their uncompromising elders. We can all relate.

As Peter Hughes writes: “These objects are eloquent messengers speaking to us of their making, of their use, of those who made them and of the society and times in which they lived.”

As an aside, I can tell you that the Wong Collection is also a highlight for the young. In an ongoing children’s and school program at the Museum I saw primary-age students scattered around one of the display cases while a teacher asked them for comments and ideas about what they were seeing and what these objects might mean.

From expectedly slow beginnings the conversation sparked up as the kids projected themselves back in time and came up with answers — resulting in a lively interaction between the past and the present.

As far as Tasmania is concerned, the Wong Collection is a generous tribute to this state. In its complete form it is our first major collection of such art and antiquities — and in stature is also “one of the most substantial single donations of Chinese art and antiquities given to an Australian public museum in the past twenty years,” as Bill Bleathman, director of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, wrote in his foreword to the handsome book marking the unveiling of the complete collection. Patsy Hollis

View some of the newer pieces here — Gallery I :: Gallery II

For more about the landmark publication, Eloquent Objects, visit here

Leatherwood Online brought you highlights from the first donation by the Wongs, see the galleries here

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