Holly Lee

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Holly Lee
Traditional Chinese黃楚喬
Simplified Chinese黄楚乔

Holly Lee (Chinese: 黃楚喬[1]), born 1953 in Hong Kong,[2] is an artist-photographer, best known for her portraits project, the Hollian Thesaurus. She was one of the pioneers of conceptual photography in Hong Kong, experimenting with Photoshop to create composite photographs[3] that were reminiscent of oil paintings.[4] Her work has been collected by the Hong Kong Heritage Museum[5] and M+ Museum.[3]

Holly Lee has worked as a professional photographer since 1980. She was one of the founders of Dislocation, a monthly photography journal in Hong Kong active from 1992 to 1998.[6] In 1997, she re-located from Hong Kong to Toronto, Canada[7] where she and Lee Ka Sing, an artist-photographer, set up INDEXG (a gallery and art studio space).[8] The duo now publishes online on a weekly periodical, Double Double by Ocean Pounds.[9]


In her first photography series, Pictures of My Friends, Artists and Others, Holly Lee photographed many artists and creatives in Hong Kong including Antonio Mak and Ann Hui.[10] She was inspired by the portraits by Richard Avedon, which she described as "naked and intense".[7] This series of black-and-white portraits featured the subject in the foreground against a white background.

Holly Lee is best known for her works in the Hollian Thesaurus project. The project consists of twelve portraits created between 1994 and 2000, contemplating and exploring a period of change in Hong Kong leading up to the handover of Hong Kong. Lee explores themes of East and West cultural dialogues and identities, often juxtaposing historical and contemporary elements.[3]

Using digital manipulation, Lee combined photographs, sourced imagery and 19th-century export painting from Guangdong to create the Hollian Thesaurus portraits. The portraits are reminiscent of Renaissance oil paintings—Lee added fine lines to mimic the cracks in old oil paintings, creating an air of nostalgia.[3] Her most recognised portrait, The Great Pageant Show, presents a Miss Hong Kong beauty pageant winner in the style of Queen Elizabeth II presented in front of a Qing court painting.[3]

Works in the Hollian Thesaurus include:

  • Madodhisattva, 1993
  • Jinx, in Front of Hong Kong Harbor, circa 1994
  • The White-Haired Girl, Pre-97 Version, 1995
  • The Great Pageant Show, circa 1997
  • Bauhinia, 1997
  • Barbie The Great, Beauty Monopolizer, 2000

List of selected works[2][5][11][edit]

  • Hollian Thesaurus, 1994–2000
  • Dun Huang Series, 1991
  • Footsteps of June Series, 1989
  • Pictures of My Friends, Artists and Others, 1981–1986


Selected exhibitions[edit]

Solo Exhibitions[4]

  • Si-ling and Owltoise series, Photo Centre Gallery, Hong Kong, 1985
  • Footsteps of June, La Cadre Gallery, 1989

Group Exhibitions[2][4]

  • What's Next 30x30, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, 2011
  • YYZ Dialogue, Seven Toronto Artist in Response to the Poems of Leung Ping Kwan, Toronto, 2011
  • Art+01: A Digital Exploration, Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Hong Kong, 2001
  • Identities: Art in HKSAR Government Offices Abroad, Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, Hong Kong, 2000
  • On Hong Kong—An Exhibition of Contemporary Photography, City Hall, Hong Kong, 1998
  • New Voices—Contemporary Art from Hong Kong, Taipei, and Shanghai, Pao Galleries, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Zhung Zheng Gallery, National Taiwan Arts Education Institute, 1998
  • Asia Cultural Council Group exhibition, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Philipiines, 1997
  • Hong Kong Arts Festival, Berlin, Germany, 1997
  • Hong Kong Portfolio, organised by the Asia Society at the Hong Kong Convention Centre and Fringe Gallery, Hong Kong, 1997
  • Hong Kong‚ Four Perspectives, Chinese Cultural Centre, Vancouver, 1997
  • Renga, a global art collaboration on the Internet, organised by Japan Telecom, 1997
  • group Show on Alternative Photography, Shen Yang Luzun Art Academy, China, 1997
  • New Images from Hong Kong, Tower Gallery, Yokohama, Japan, 1996
  • 2+3+4 Dimension Digital Art Exhibition, Hong Kong Arts Centre, 1996
  • Contemporary Photography from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong, 1994
  • Asian Photography, Malaysia, 1986


  1. ^ a b "Hong Kong Art Archive". finearts.hku.hk. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  2. ^ a b c Chang, Yuanchien Rita (1998). Fast Forward to 2000: Recent Works by Asian Cultural Council Grantees, Catalog. Philippines: Cultural Center of the Philippines. pp. 12–13.
  3. ^ a b c d e M+ Stories (25 October 2018). "The Hollian Thesaurus: A Piece of Hong Kong Photography History - M+ Stories". stories.mplus.org.hk. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  4. ^ a b c d Norman Jackson Ford, Edited by (2001). Traversals (catalog). Hong Kong: MAP Book Publishers. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  5. ^ a b "Hong Kong Heritage Museum". www.heritagemuseum.gov.hk. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  6. ^ Asia Art Archive. "查考香港自1960年代以來的攝影實踐". aaa.org.hk (in Traditional Chinese). Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  7. ^ a b Beyond the Portrait (exhibition catalogue). Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Leisure and Cultural Services Department. 2012. ISBN 978-962-7213-71-0.
  8. ^ "INDEXG, 50 Gladstone Avenue Toronto". indexg.com. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  9. ^ "Double Double". Ocean Pounds. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  10. ^ "Holly Lee Series - Ann Hui". Google Arts & Culture. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  11. ^ Contemporary Photography from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Arts Centre. 1994. ISBN 962-7630-06-3.