A Treasure Hunt for Chinese Plants, When Versailles and the Old Summer Palace Met
A Treasure Hunt for Chinese Plants, When Versailles and the Old Summer Palace Met


15 MAY 2022


3:00 pm – 5:00 pm


La Médiathèque, Jordan Centre, Alliance Française de Hong Kong (52 Jordan Road, Kowloon)

A Treasure Hunt for Chinese Plants, When Versailles and the Old Summer Palace Met

For many centuries, Europeans travelled the world and the seas in search of spices. These rare plants were used for cooking and food preservation, as well as in medicines, cosmetics, and perfumes. As desirable as gold, these goods motivated numerous explorers to leave for parts unknown.  

Botanists soon followed in their footsteps with the aim of identifying and collecting various plants. Besides spices, they discovered many new species of exotic woods, trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. The “Indies” and China became their favourite hunting grounds. Slowly, the treasures they amassed there found their way to the West, where they acclimated to new environments in royal palaces like Versailles, as well as private residences and botanical gardens.  

Speaker: Dr Estelle Niklès van Osselt, Curator, Hong Kong Palace Museum  

Moderator: Dr. Isabelle Frank, Consulting Curator, Indra and Harry Banga Gallery, City University of Hong Kong 

Participants must follow the anti-pandemic measures and arrangements by the Organiser. The arrangement of activity is possible to be changed in light of COVID-19 and government measures. Please stay tuned with official page for latest notice. 

About the Speaker   

Specialising in Chinese and Asian art and archaeology, Estelle Niklès van Osselt studied at the University of Geneva (where she earned her PhD), the University of London (SOAS), and Peking University. Prior to her appointment at the Hong Kong Palace Museum, Dr Niklès van Osselt worked as Curator at the Baur Foundation in Geneva and for the Guy and Myriam Ullens Foundation of Chinese contemporary art in Geneva and Beijing. She has curated many exhibitions, including “Beyond Boundaries: Cartier and the Palace Museum Craftmanship and Restoration Exhibition” at the Forbidden city in 2019. With a special interest in East-West encounters, Dr Niklès van Osselt has authored a number of books, including Five Blessings: Coded Messages in Chinese Art and A Chinese Adventure, The Story of a Swiss Watchmaker Family in the Celestial Empire. In 1999, she received the Arditi Award in art history for her research on Song dynasty ceramics. Her latest book, Asia Chic: The Influence of Japanese and Chinese Textiles on the Fashions of the Roaring Twenties (2020), received the Selection of the Jury Award at FILAF (International Art Book and Film Festival) 

About the Moderator 

Isabelle Frank is currently Consulting Curator at the Indra and Harry Banga Gallery at City University of Hong Kong, where she was the founding Director from 2016 to 2022. As director and now Curator, she focuses on exhibitions that combine technology and the arts and bridge Western and Asian cultures; she has collaborated with such international institutions as the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan, and many museums in France. An art historian by training (with a PhD from Harvard University in Italian Renaissance art), she first taught at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts and was then associate dean for academic affair at The New School, and dean at Fordham University’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies. She has published on Italian Renaissance art and decorative art (The Theory of Decorative Art 1750-1940, Yale University Press, 2000) and has edited many catalogues for the Banga Gallery, most recently, Art Machines Past/ Present (2020) and The Atlas of Maritime Buddhism (2021). 

*The Hong Kong Jockey Club Community Outreach and Arts Education Programme is supported by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust  

**All the content of works are independently produced by the creative team, and do not reflect the views or opinions of Jockey Club Community Outreach and Arts Education Programmes nor The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust.

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