Individual Object Label and Wall Text


View of Spring Gardens

Hong Kong, 20th August 1846

Painting by Murdoch Bruce, lithograph by A. Maclure


This painting by Murdoch Bruce and A. Maclure depicts a scene in 19th Century Hong Kong. Initially, it is difficult to tell that this piece of work is portraying a garden in Hong Kong, but through the smallest of indicators, we are given insight into where this is and the social dynamics of the time.

As the British had taken full control of Hong Kong Island after the First Opium War in 1841, the British had immense influence on the art and architecture of Hong Kong. Being the colonisers, that also meant that the British were seen as being of a higher social and economic status as compared to the Chinese locals.

To see the heavy influence that the British had on the architecture, we can take reference to the painting by Murdoch Bruce and A. Maclure. In this painting, the buildings take on a more European style and is lacking in traditional Chinese architecture. The roofs are simple and flat, having no roof ornaments such as lions and dragons, which are often associated with Chinese architecture. In addition, there is a use of columns, which has its origins in ancient Greece.

Besides the architecture, there is a heavy presence of the British colonisers, as artists at the time preferred to focus mainly on the foreign occupants. The foreigners are depicted as wealthy, being dressed in elaborate pieces of clothing. The women are seen wearing long and decorated dresses that are tapered at the waist to accentuate their figures and are seen adorning large and curly hairstyles. The local women depicted in the painting are depicted as being of a lower socio-economic status. Unlike their colonisers, they wear simple clothing and have their hair tied back in a simple bun.

The men are depicted in a similar way whereby the British men are wearing long coats and top hats while the local men are in traditional Chinese clothing and have their hair tied back in a plaid and have their head shaven. In addition, we can see in the painting that the British are seen as superior to the locals as there is a local Hong Kong man “kowtow”-ing to the foreigners. (To “kowtow” means to bow in respect to one’s superiors)

Mapping Asia Project Main Wall Text

Mapping Asia

“The British Empire was often described as “the empire on which the Sun never sets” when it was at its peak. This was due to the extensiveness of the empire which stretched across the globe in the form of dominions, colonies, protectorates, and various other territories under British rule.

In this exhibit, we will be looking at the art pieces that have emerged from the British colonies in Asia during the 19th Century, and how the art pieces reflect the colonial rule and influence during this time.

At the beginning of the British expansion into Asia, the British were faced with immense odds, arriving in Asia much later than the other European powers such as the Portuguese and the Dutch. However, this did not stop them from claiming territories as their own, including taking over other European colonies. The East India Company that settled in India had trouble finding its footing, due to an already well established Dutch East India Trading Company. However in 1757, the British East Indian Company had dominions in India surrendered to them, establishing a strong British presence in India.

The British continued expanding their trade routes and their empire by going further east, eventually arriving in Burma. At the end of the first Anglo-Burmese War in 1826, which ended with British victors, the British were ceded several Burmese territories, and by 1885, the British gained full control of all Burmese territories and made Burma a Province of British India.

Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in Singapore in 1819, and on behalf of the British East India Company, developed the southern part of Singapore as a British trading post. However in 1824, the entire island of Singapore became a British possession, eventually becoming part of the Straits Settlements in 1826.

After establishing British Malaya, Britain had access to the Straits of Malacca, a maritime gateway to China. While initially just being a trading port, after the mass destruction of over 20,000 chests of opium, the First Opium War was declared by the British. After several Chinese defeats, the British occupied Hong Kong Island in 1841.”

Research for Proposal – Mapping Asia

There are several Western powers that travelled to Asia to colonise Asian territories and also to monopolise several trades, such as spices and textiles.  Some of the Western powers that came to Asia included the British, the Portuguese, the Spanish, the French, and the Dutch. I think it would be interesting to select one of the Western colonisers and mark out their trade route chronologically, and identify the most famous art pieces that came out of each Asian colony.

For example, if we were to look at the Dutch:


We can track the trade route they took in Asia, perhaps select 4 territories and select the art works that came out from these places.


Female Patrons of the Arts (Week 3: Journal)

Not being too clear about female patrons of the arts, I did a little research and discovered a list of women who are currently listed as some of the top female collectors of our time. I read through the list and one name, in particular, called out to me: Sheikha Al Mayassa Al Thani.

Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad al-Thani, daughter of the Emir of Qatar and head of the Board of the Qatar Museums Authority. Photographer: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images
Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad al-Thani, daughter of the Emir of Qatar and head of the Board of the Qatar Museums Authority. Photographer: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps it is because she is royalty, or maybe I’m interested in her because I have been to Doha, where she resides, and their art and culture fascinates me. I did some research about her and am utterly astounded by what she has accomplished.

While she is royalty, she is also an extremely well-educated woman, something you don’t hear much about from the Middle-East, or rather you would hear otherwise from Western propaganda.

She is the Director of the Qatar Museum Authority which manages the Museum of Islamic Art and the soon to open National Museum of Qatar and Orientalist Museum. She was also listed as one of the most influential people in the world by TIME magazine and has also topped the lists in ArtReview’s 2014 ranking of the art world’s 100 most influential figures, otherwise known as the power 100. Not only did she rank above countless Westerners, but in fact, she has outranked many men, something you don’t hear much about, especially a woman coming from the Middle-East.

She originally came into the art world’s view after spending $250 million on the Card Players, but soon rose to even higher heights after her organisations annual spending of about $1 billion.

Card Players (5th version) (ca.1894-1895) by Paul Cezanne, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay

Africa (Week 2: Journal)

Africa has always been seen as having one of the most backward civilisations in the world. Growing up, I’ve always had a particular view of Africa: tribes and animals. I’ve always been fascinated by that particular aspect of Africa, but not once have I stopped to think about the art or even the period of colonialism.

After week 2, where we talked about the ivories that came out of Africa, my perspective of their culture and their arts has changed. Their craft was exceptional, it shows, very clearly, the level of skill they possessed and their ability to bring life to such a precious material. While some might say that they’re backwards, their craft during that time shows something very different. Their level of skill was so great that they were asked to create works of art for the elite back in Europe, works that were not able to have been made by the Europeans at that time (or so to my knowledge).

Sierra Leone; Sapi peoples Salt cellar ca. 1490-1530 Ivory H. 20.7 cm (8 1/8″) Seattle Art Museum, Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection, 68.31

But the one thing that did not change was how the Western world has exploited the resources in Africa. Though they may have respected the chieftains or the craftsmen in Africa, their exploitation of materials, especially that of ivory, has done nothing but harm the ecosystem. Up till now, elephants are being hunted in Africa, not necessarily for the westerners, as this issue is also very prominent in Asia and other parts of the world. While elephants are somewhat protected in Africa, other animals (even those that are protected) are still being hunted, and while elephants were hunted for their tusks, other animals are hunted for the sake of being hunted, or as the hunters might call it, Big Game Hunting.

Here’s some information on big game hunting and it’s affects on Africa:

(While this issue may not have anything to do with art history, I do believe it is an important issue, and since we were in Africa in week 2, I believe this does have some importance as well. Hope that’s ok!)

What Is Art To Me?

Art comes in many forms, visual, music, performance, and so much more. I never really understood art till about my late-teens, actually, probably until I started my first term in University. To me, art was always just drawings and paintings found in museums, but now, art is so much more to me. There’s art in architecture, buildings and forms, icons, and so much more. In the past, temples and churches were always just buildings and nothing more, but there’s so much that goes into making them, the design, the icons represented, its structure, even the material used, there’s so much depth and reasoning behind them. Paintings were always just paintings, but every detail has a reason and that’s interesting to me.