The design of the exhibition explores a spatial narrative for over 300 pieces of Chinese jades from the legendary Robert Chang Collection. The design creates a series of “space pods” with apertures of various forms and sizes as a contemporary interpretation of grottos in classical Chinese gardens - framing views while mediating the sense of scale between the viewers and the works of art. Like the looking glass used by jade collectors to provoke material imagination through closer looks, the layered apertures capture the visitors’ attention as move through the exhibition while allowing freedom for discovery.
From the earliest period of European contact with China in the sixteenth century, collectors from around the world have been enchanted with enigmatic objects and imagery from the East, especially through the collection of works of art. We have fused this sense of curiosity in the culture of art collection with the client’s fascination with Chinese garden landscapes, translating them into apertures of different depths and dimensions while creating an ever-changing experience for one to discover and encounter the art.
The construction has a tight schedule onsite: the whole exhibition has to be set up within a day. We used standardized descriptive geometries to control and mediate the forms of the apertures that allow easy interpretation from the contractors. The “space pods” were prefabricated at the factory and easily packed and transported to the site. The gold paint at the edges gives an enchanting spatial depth to the openings while allowing one to discover and imagine their relationship to the works of art through space.
The client invited us to think beyond the commonly adopted method of curating and exhibiting classical works of art by generic categorization - either a linear historical timeline or oversimplified material categories. To feature such a diverse range of jade collections - from green jade sculptures to red jade snuff bottles, from yellow jade scholarly objects to white jade pots, we identified two design challenges as well as opportunities: one is quantity - there are over 300 pieces of works of art in the collection to be displayed within the 500 square meter exhibition area; the other is scale - most of the jades are relatively small when displayed in the vast exhibition space of the Convention Centre. The “space pods” are geometrically devised to break down the quantity and mediate the sense of scale. While each aperture frames and presents a specifically curated group of jades, the layering of the openings evokes surprising juxtapositions across categories, allowing a more fluid and open interpretation of the classical work of art.
Su Chang, Lam Yu Sze, Lam Hin Fung Sherman