Lawrence Ferber visits Macau and discovers rich art spaces often overshadowed by the glitz and glam of the entertainment industry.
Mid-May sees the opening of Macau’s five-star Galaxy resort and entertainment development. It’s the latest eye-popping, glitzy addition to the “Las Vegas of the East” landscape, which includes a Venetian, MGM Grand, Wynn, and Ponte 16 (home to a small gallery containing Michael Jackson memorabilia, including the famed glove). The Galaxy resort is specifically geared toward Asia’s own market and tastes, from the restaurants and shops to the trio of Asian-brand luxury hotels, including Thailand’s Banyan Tree and Japan’s Okura (2,200 rooms in all). But if you look past the casinos, plush hotels, spas, and show spectacles, you’ll discover a handful of artistic jackpots: spaces devoted to local creativity, influenced by Macau’s unique Portuguese-Chinese (Macanese) cultural fusion.
Occupying a former cattle slaughterhouse at the intersection of Av.
Coronel Mesquita and Av. do Almirante Lacerda, a figurative million miles away from the casinos (but, literally, just a short cab ride), the inconspicuous Ox Warehouse is dedicated to both exhibiting, encouraging, and producing all forms of contemporary artwork, especially by the Macanese populace. Notes their Facebook page, Ox Warehouse tries “to provide an alternative platform to the local arts scene, which is a bit wanting in this regard.” Recent mountings have included solo exhibitions “Silence Scenery” by Macau-born artist Jess Chan Sau In and “Long From Dusk: From Xiaozhou-village To Macau” by Xu Zhiqiang. Besides gallery and workshop spaces, Ox Warehouse boasts a small library and shop, particularly notable for its selection of CDs by Macanese and Chinese alternative bands and its young staff happy to talk music, art, and local indie culture.
Well known to mainland Chinese tourists but barely a blip on all others’ radars is The Handover Gifts Museum of Macau, which opened in 2004 and houses 34 sculptures, tapestries, and other resplendent gifts from China’s provinces to commemorate Macau’s 1999 handover back to China. Be warned that Chinese tourists treat these gifts like Hollywood celebrities (or, better yet, like teen girls do Justin Bieber), excitedly angling and posing in photos alongside gallery cases. Getting pushed aside or even barreled past is commonplace–and amusing.
Macau Museum of Art is well worth a visit, currently hosting a range of exhibitions like “Historical Paintings of Macau in the 19th Century” to “PHOTOFOOD: Mobile Phone Photography of Macau.” After a tour, visit the museum’s gift shop, a deliciously modern space, crammed with cool, locally made design-centric crafts and goods, including bizarre fashionista-ready T-shirts by OH-MYSTORE! and feline-centric bags and money holders produced by cat adoption center, Meow Space.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Of course, if you are going to stop by or stay in one of the dazzling new casinos–which cost far less than Hong Kong’s hotel/resort prices–The Wynn Encore‘s lobby boasts a glowing example of aesthetic eye candy: iridescent blue Moon jellyfish, swirling in a giant tank behind the reception desk.
Photos: Above, Handover Gifts Museum; Below, Ox Warehouse; by Lawrence Ferber