Guided Viewing: “A Passion for Silk” with Dr. Isabelle Frank at the Indra and Harry Banga Gallery, CityU

Date :
Wednesday, 12 June 2024
Time :
2:00pm - 3:30pm Exhibition; 12:30pm Optional lunch
Venue :
Indra and Harry Banga Gallery, 18/F, Lau Ming Wai Academic Building, City University, Kowloon Tong
Cost :
$150 Member; $250 Non-member; Free for student with valid ID
Limit :
Enquiries :
Monica Wong at [email protected] / 2241-5507
Note :
Optional lunch afterwards on share-cost basis

The HKU Museum Society is delighted to present a guided viewing “A Passion for Silk” at the Indra and Harry Banga Gallery with Dr. Isabelle Frank.

A Passion for Silk: The Road from China to Europe

The art of silk (sericulture) emerged in China in 8,500 BCE, becoming an important financial industry over the succeeding millennia. Chinese farmers cultivated silkworms and the mulberry trees, while master craftsmen and women wove and embroidered shimmering, colourful fabric. The value of silk was so high that it was used for payments like gold. Though kept a state secret, by the third century CE the production of silk had become known to China’s neighbours while India had independently developed its own silk weaving tradition. In Europe, Italy first learned sericulture in the medieval period, followed by France a few centuries later. Through technological and artistic innovations, these two countries dominated the European silk market, while Chinese silk remained a luxury item for royalty and aristocrats. The fame of Chinese silk was such that in the 19th century China’s early trade routes came to be called the Silk Road.

Just as important as silk’s financial role is its cultural, political, technical, and religious significance. The fabric’s design and usage reveal developments in art, trade, fashion, and technology (to name just a few) and expose important cross-cultural influences. With over a hundred samples of silk clothing, accessories, and furnishings from China, India, Italy and France, this exhibition provides a rare overview of the crucial cultural role played by Chinese silk making and its influence abroad. Just as important, the exhibition reveals how European silk makers adapted the Chinese methods of production and artistic styles in ways that then influenced Chinese fabrication itself in the 20th century. Silk’s continuing appeal is visible in contemporary high fashion silk creations today.


Dr. Isabelle Frank is an independent curator in Hong Kong. After six years as the founding director of the Indra and Harry Banga Gallery, City University of Hong Kong (2016 to 2022), she continued as consulting curators until 2024. Over this period, she mounted exhibitions combining art and technology and bridging Western and Asian cultures. She has collaborated with such international institutions as the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan, Latvian National Museum of Art. An art historian by training (with a Ph.D. from Harvard University), 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 Hunters, Warriors, Spirits. Nomadic Art in North China (2022) and Amber: Baltic Gold (2022).