Day 3: MGM Art Space+ Back

After five years on the job, I’ve come to learn that Chinese restaurants in big name Macau hotels are mostly all the same.  Clean and efficient, with good service, but really lacking character, and kind of contrived in a way.  They’re made for hotel guests, not locals, and you can really see it in the clientele, or rather, lack thereof.  The pictures below tell the story, it was like eating food in a morgue. 



Grand Imperial Court, as the name suggests, wants to be all high class and trendy, but the truth is they’re anything but.  A restaurant of no real reputation, its only calling card is that it’s the fanciest Chinese place in MGM, which I soon learned doesn’t mean that much.  Serving food in Cantonese style, I ordered seafood soup, pan fried fish patties, crispy pork rolls and some kind of lamb dish.  The seafood soup was way too oily for my liking, while the pan fried fish patties were okay, but really lacked bite.  The crispy pork rolls were amazing and I ordered another dish of them, just to make up for the first two.  The last dish of lamb was kind of like Thai food in a way, a little exotic, with a hint of pineapple/citrus and was served kind of cold, which I found weird.  Not that it was horrible or anything, but I couldn’t figure out what they were trying to do with it.



Long review short, the food was fresh for the most part and prepared well, but the taste just wasn’t my style.  Portions were of a decent size and the final bill ran $541 Mops, which I could live with.  I don’t think I’ll ever go back though. 


As a side note, I’d just like to mention that the service was wonderful and I think the best looking girls in Macau work in restaurants like Grand Imperial Court, Zi Yat Heen, and the 8, (AKA Chinese restaurants in big name casinos.)  It’s like they all got first pick or something, and they used it wisely.

After lunch I walked down to the Grande Praca to check out MGM’s newest addition, the Art Space.

MGM Art Space opened on December 20, 2013 with massive fanfare and a top notch exhibition: Botticelli’s Venus, The Life and Times of a Goddess.  Featuring 56 paintings in all (22 of which were done by Botticelli), it was a fantastic glimpse into Renaissance art, one that you rarely get to see living in Asia.  Truth be told, all but one of the paintings were in fact replicas but that didn’t take anything away from the overall experience.  Redone in high resolution and scaled to original size, everything on display certainly looked real enough.

The star of the exhibition, Sandro Botticelli, was born in Florence in 1445.  He first trained to be a goldsmith when he was 14 before switching to painting.  In 1481, the Pope asked him to paint a wall in the Sistine Chapel and later he helped decide where David’s Michelangelo would be placed in Florence.  Viewed as a major artist today, Botticelli was basically unknown for 400 years, only garnering recognition and acclaim in the late 19th Century.  Since then his work has come to represent the linear grace of Early Renaissance painting.  A master of the line, Botticelli knew better than any of his contemporaries how a clean and unsullied line could communicate power and beauty in art.

With that little introduction out of the way, let me share the 10 works I liked best.


Some things never change.  When you’re an unmarried man and can’t find anyone, what do you do?  You get yourself out there, that’s what.  You comb your hair, take a shower, and get your portrait done (which shows you in the best possible light of course.)  After that, all you can do is hope for the best.  In 2014 we do it everyday on Facebook and other social media, while in 1529, the only way was to bring a painter in.  

This is a portrait of the Duke of Mantua, painted by Titian.  The Duke was looking for a wife and thought including a dog would show his gentle nature, while the rosary beads around his neck depict his intention to leave his checkered past.  All in all, I think it was a pretty good effort, but he’d do a lot better if he lost those pinky rings. 


If that’s not a picture of love, marital bliss and filial piety, then I don’t know what is.  Staring each other down like they just finished an argument and want to slit each other’s throats is not the kind of image I’d want to project to my family and friends.  Seriously, if both of them aren’t contemplating one of divorce, mutilation, or poisoning, then I’d be very surprised. 

The truth is though that this kind of strict profile was very popular back then.  Dated around 1465-1470, you’re looking at Piero della Francesca’s rendition of the Duke of Urbino and his wife.  The Duke’s left side of his face is shown for a good reason - he lost his right eye and the bridge of his nose in a sword fighting competition.  His wife had a much worse fate.  She died giving birth at the age of 26 to their ninth child and first son.  

The rest of the paintings were done by Botticelli.


The Adoration of the Magi, painted in 1475.  I included this painting because Botticelli included himself in it.  He’s the man on the lower right hand side checking YOU out, as you check his art out.  I don’t think he looks too impressed with us. 


This is how I’d like to go out.  Hoist me up in front of the Grand Lisboa on a crane and take your best shot.  Whoever wants a piece can have one, I won’t back down from anyone.  About the only thing I’d do differently is wear a bandana that reads “F%@K YOU.”   Apart from that, it might look something like the painting.

This poor soul is St. Sebastian, the patron saint of those afflicted with the plague.  Botticelli painted it in 1473.



Madonna and Child with 5 Angels.  Very well received by people at the time, this is Botticelli’s earliest round picture, done around 1480-82.  Mary is seen writing the final lines of the Magnificat.  Botticelli was very good using this form, so I included two other paintings.



The Annunciation, 1489/90.  Stunning little picture this one.  The cold hard pattern on the floor is at complete odds with the soft swooping motions of the two principal characters, who look more like dancers.

The angel Gabriel has just arrived.  Mary recoils, perhaps a little surprised, but at the same time bends toward him accepting his message.  


Pallas and the Centaur, 1482.  Another good one.  Wisdom is signified by the woman, dumb violence by the Centaur.  And how she looks at him with such compassion and pity is really moving.  You damn fool, you can’t help yourself and we both know it.  I see him saying spare me, I know not what I do, and I think she will.


Primavera, 1482.  One of the most famous paintings in Western art, Primavera is an allegory for spring.  The detail in the background is amazing, as there are over 500 identified plant species and 190 different flowers.


Birth of Venus, 1485.  Although it’s Botticelli’s most famous painting, there’s no real consensus as to what its about.  The eternal feminine and the Goddess of Love, Venus, emerges from the sea as a grown woman.  Clearly a fantasy image, no woman could have held such a pose, especially when standing on the edge of a shell.  There also aren’t any shadows in the background.

Botticelli was one of the first artists to do female nudes, something quite controversial at the time.  Had it not been for the protection of the Medici family, who controlled and sponsored the art scene at the time, he might have gotten in serious trouble with the Church.



The last painting of the exhibition was the only original one, Venus, painted by Botticelli in 1482.  The model was said to be Simonetta Vespucci, a married noblewoman, renowned for being the most beautiful woman of her age, or at least, in Florence.  She died in 1476 at age 22 of tuberculosis, six years before this painting was done.  Botticelli apparently loved her all of his life, never marrying.  After he died in 1510, he was buried at her feet.

Maybe after I die I can be buried at the feet of Sophia Loren.  Because a prime Sophia Loren destroys all comers, including this Mrs Vespucci.  Her hair kind of freaks me out, like looking at the Medusa.


It's interesting that Botticelli leaves the background dark and empty.  I guess he wants Venus to be the only star of the show. 

After the exhibition closed in March, it was announced that it had drew over 42,000 visitors.  I thought those numbers were a little disappointing, averaging out to less than 400 people per day.  It’s not like the exhibition cost money or anything.


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