In Good Company
In bringing together superb antiques from France and China, a unique exhibition at the Liang Yi Museum highlights remarkable parallels in inspiration and execution, writes
t’s a pairing 300 years in the making: Paris-based Kraemer Gallery and Hong Kong’s Liang Yi Museum have teamed up to produce Great Minds Think Alike, an unprecedented exhibition of 17th- and 18th-century furniture from France’s Ancien Régime and China’s Qing Dynasty. It’s the most significant effort to date to showcase these antique pieces side by side and it reveals some surprising similarities between the works produced by two very different countries.
In the Liang Yi Museum’s upstairs gallery, director Lynn Fung pulls open a sliding door to reveal just such an example: a pair of 18th-century lacquered cabinets, one French, one Chinese, both painted with scenes of the Chinese countryside. “This is one of the comparisons where the similarities are a bit more obvious,” she says. “It’s a very traditionally Chinese cabinet but there are hints of Western influence.” She opens the drawers, which are decorated with patterns of flowers. “If you’re familiar with the Chinese way of doing things, you’ll know that’s not common at all. Normally, what is hidden is left unfinished. It’s obvious where the French were influenced by the Chinese, but it’s a two-way street—you just have to look a little harder in the other direction.”
The exhibition’s parallels run beyond the furniture. Both
Fung and Kraemer Gallery director Mikael Kraemer represent the latest generation to continue their families’ passion for antique furniture. In Paris, Kraemer’s great-greatgrandfather, Lucien, opened his first antique furniture shop in 1875. Some of his first clients included members of the Rothschild and Camondo families; more recently, Forbes magazine described the family’s gallery as “the billionaire’s IKEA.” In Hong Kong, Fung’s father, investment banker Peter, spent decades amassing a collection of Chinese furniture before opening the Liang Yi Museum to showcase it.
Kraemer always knew he would follow in his family’s footsteps. “I like to joke that I was born in a chest of drawers,” he says. “I could have been a singer, a football player, a politician, but art and philanthropy are my two passions.” Even as a teenager he enjoyed visiting museums and was fascinated by the history of each of his family’s antiques. “Friends would visit our house and ask me questions about the antiques, and I didn’t want to look stupid, so I had to know how to answer.”
It was a less obvious path for Fung. “We used to live with all of these furniture pieces in our home, so we grew up with it,” she says. “My father would try to sneakily feed me information. After a number of years, it filters in and before you know it, I developed this love for furniture I didn’t even know was there.” When
A standing screen made from zitan frames an early Louis XVI fire screen