Which came first, pasta or noodles?

SINGAPORE - How does the shape of the bowl in Chinese culture hold the answer to whether noodles or pasta came first?

Sinophiles with a taste for art and curious questions such as the one above will find their fill at the Chinese Art Weekend. Back for the second year, the event on Saturday is organised by popular wine columnist and publisher Ch'ng Poh Tiong. The day-long affair will be packed with six 45-minute talks by academics and experts on Chinese art.

The speakers include Ms Carol Michaelson, curator of Chinese art at the British Museum, who will lecture on the history and importance of jade in Chinese society. Ms Nixi Cura, course director of Chinese art at Christie's Education London, will give talks on the style and function of paintings by Jesuit court painters in the Qing dynasty court and ink painting in contemporary Chinese art.

Art consultant Audrey Wang will speak on collecting Chinese antiques while Mr Ch'ng, who holds a postgraduate certificate in Chinese art from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, will connect the dots between the Chinese bowl and the history of noodles before pasta.

He launched the event last year to share his passion for Chinese art with others. The inaugural edition received a warm response, with each lecture drawing between 80 and 100 audience members.

The self-financed project, however, cost him more than $38,000 last year and he expects to shell out another $10,000 this year despite sponsorship from the Asian Civilisations Museum and the Conrad Centennial Singapore hotel.

But the 57-year-old art lover remains undeterred.

He says: "If organising Chinese Art Weekend can help enhance, in whatever small way, interest in Chinese art in young and old people alike in Singapore, I would regard that as a great privilege."

This year's event has been streamlined to focus solely on Chinese art.

The inaugural edition had two lectures not related to Chinese art, one on The European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht and the other on the architectural design of The National Art Gallery Singapore.

This year's leaner programme will allow the event to run on just one day of the weekend instead of over two days as it did last year.

Despite the shorter run, Mr Ch'ng expects the turnout to be bigger as the event builds on its base of art lovers.

He is equally thrilled to have Chinese art novices in attendance. "Nothing will make me happier than to welcome people with little or even no interest in Chinese art. I would particularly love to see children, students and young people coming to listen to the talks," he says.

Ms Wang, who attended the event last year and is a speaker this year, says: "What is unique about this event is its focus on the art of Chinese antiquity and its continued relevance in today's art arena.

"I am looking forward to both speaking at and attending the lectures. If last year's event is anything to go by, this year's Chinese Art Weekend will be just as, if not more, enjoyable."


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.