Two images side by side. On the left is a kimono made out of dyed silk crepe fabric depicting different recurring scenes related to war. On the right are six lamps hanging from coloured cords attached to the same outlet. Each lamp consists of a plastic bottle with most of its body covered by a woven textile basket-like lamp shade, each with different shapes, colours, and patterns.

Meet the Oldest and Newest Design and Architecture Works in the M+ Collections

How did you two meet? is a ‘recipe’ for a public programme from The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal. The CCA invited us to put our own spin on this recipe at M+. Our How did you two meet? recipe goes like this: pick the oldest and newest objects in the M+ Collections (out of those available on the M+ Collections Beta), and narrate a story that connects them.

Two curators from M+’s Design and Architecture team took on this challenge in an online programme. Lead curator Ikko Yokoyama explored the potential relationship between two design objects, and curator Shirley Surya examined the connection between two architectural works. Below, we share their results.

A white rice cooker with a metallic lid stands on a white surface. The logo for Toshiba is printed on its front. Next to the rice cooker is the metallic pot that normally sits inside of it. A small transparent measuring cup is in front of the pot, next to a tied up electrical cord.

Quiz: Can You Guess How Old These Designs Are?

Can you tell the difference between a 1950s rice cooker and one from the 2000s? Do you know when the first Game Boy was released? How good is your intuition when it comes to chair designs?

Challenge yourself with this quiz on the age of ten classic design objects in the M+ Collections. Here’s a hint: the oldest object is from the 1920s, and the newest is from the 2010s.

A man sits in an outdoor workshop using a large circular saw machine to cut through a broken-off block of a sculpture.

The Rebellious Spirit of Zhao Zhao

Chinese artist Zhao Zhao’s works are imbued with a rebellious spirit. Among them, Officer (2011) is arguably the most radical, getting the artist shut out for around two years from solo and group exhibitions in Beijing. Below, Minnie Cheung, Curatorial Assistant at M+, gives an introduction to Zhao’s artistic practice. She looks closely at two of his most representative works: Officer and Again (2012).

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In September 2011, Zhao Zhao’s new work, Officer, was exhibited in Chambers Fine Art. This monumental sculptural installation of a fallen policeman, featuring Zhao’s face and a severed torso, was scattered across the gallery floor. To construct this disastrous scene, he first created a model of himself in a police uniform with the help of his assistant. He then engaged a craftsman to scale up the model to create an eight-meters tall plaster replica. When the statue was completed, it was smashed on the floor into random pieces. These were then carved in limestone for long-term preservation. Finally, Zhao reassembled this fallen hero in the gallery, placing the pieces in the exact way they were found when the sculpture was smashed. Viewers could walk amongst these enormous pieces to look closer at the details and absorb the shocking visuals of the scene. But why was this work considered so radical at the time?

Construction workers on a yellow elevated stand working on a neon sign in a street under a blue sky. The neon sign is in the shape of a cow. The words ‘Sammy’s Kitchen Ltd.’ in green English and red Chinese lettering are displayed inside the cow.

Collecting Neon Signs from Hong Kong’s Streets

For the past several years, the government has been flagging Hong Kong’s neon signs for removal due to safety concerns over their condition and size. Since 2013, M+ has been collecting some of these neon signs. Five of them are now in the M+ Collections, alongside a large archive of neon sign design drawings and photo documentation.

The acquisition of these condemned neon signs is in recognition of the important role they have played in the visual culture of Hong Kong: More than just advertisements, they are objects of craftsmanship, graphic design, illustration, and architecture. Reproduced in movies, photographs, artworks, and video games, they are one of the most recognisable identifiers of the city of Hong Kong.