MORPHEUS ANTIQUE, ANTIQUE SHOP
Grime, mouldy porcelain, and ancient artefacts pile up in a small cramped space. In the middle sits an old gentleman with a pair of thick glasses. He is reading, flipping through antique books, enjoying his remaining lifetime in this mouldy room. Is that the only image we could have of an antique dealer?
Morpheus Antique is an antique shop created in 2015, currently based in Hong Kong. It began with a simple concept: to collect the past and to connect it to the present; the brand was established by a group of passionate young professionals. Breakthrough + “Re-” invited the group to share their visions and experiences on how they reinterpret the role of an antique dealer. Perhaps this group of young professionals might help us reflect on our biases and provide us with fresh concepts and creative ideas.
How the Story Began
Every brand begins with a story. What is Morpheus Antique? What does it do?
“The lonely spirit who wants to find companions outside of traditional trading.” a member replied, half-jokingly. The five youngsters, all no more than 30 years old, met each other during their time in university, while studying visual arts and culture. Marco, the brand owner, came up with an idea to establish a young brand focused on antique trading for the general public and professional collectors.
“We (referring to Morpheus Antique in this article) are a group who will observe, spot, and rescue the “left-over” artefacts from our society. We aim to regain and rescue those neglected, residual cultures, no matter where they come from. We wish to endow these artefacts with an opportunity, a power to allow others to give their own reinterpretation, analysis, and the chance to study these objects.” They began at a small scale; treating it as a student project, and focusing on providing retail, consultation, and educational services.
© Morpheus Antique
How Do You Define an “Antique”?
“We digest knowledge from different fields: art, history, social politics, etc. Then we try to present the complex content in a comparatively accessible way to the public. At school, we study knowledge through separate fields, but in fact, there is an intimate relationship between each knowledge field. How a medium has been shaped or has embodied a meaning is highly related and influenced by the social circumstances of the time.” Without the interdisciplinary linkages, it might lead us to misunderstand history and society.
But how can we define an object as an antique? How does Morpheus Antique interpret this question?
“In a general perspective, people associate the antique with “old objects”, “rich people’s toys or gadgets”. However, according to the Antique Dealer: Unknown Business of World Treasures (2014), any object that has existed for a hundred years can be called "antique". This definition is broad and business-oriented. But it seems like, if every item has to be defined by this standard, some objects might not be included under this definition. Therefore, Morpheus Antique not only identifies the antique through a historical perspective, but also through its aesthetics and the relationships in people’s daily life. Perhaps some of our objects might not exist for more than a hundred years; for example, items or art pieces created at the beginning of the 20 century. But we still manage all these historical collectables as an antique shop.” Marco explained.
© Morpheus Antique
Object Handling Activities and Face-to-Face Interaction
“In this era of post-truth, people are regularly interacting with the internet. But humans exist as physical beings, and what we can do is to provide them with an opportunity of hands-on experiences to reconnect the object with their daily life. I believe this actual, substantial experience, these face-to-face interactions, are something the internet could not provide,” one of the members shared.
In the last five years, the young professionals have carried their objects, passions, and knowledge around to participate in museum educational activities. Inspired by the educational program from the British Museum, this group of antiquarians have brought their interpretation of object handling in sessions called Objects of Memory: Souvenirs and the History Behind (2019) during the International Museum Day, and Pirate! Pirate! Pirate! (2019) at the Museum Night of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. This year, a bookbinding course conducted by Morpheus Antique took place in a local secondary school. However, Marco said that due to the pandemic the course had to be canceled halfway.
Each time the brand introduces a new collection to the general public, research and preparations are paramount for the team. They will put all the fun facts, the historical meanings or extra information in text and publish it on social media to help the general public understand the story behind it. The group are storytellers, they are trying to discover and tell the story of an object.
© Morpheus Antique
Who Is the Listener? The ones who Have Curiosity Inside Their Heart.
“We met all kinds of people, but in general they all have a curious heart.”
Although the five young professionals have to manage the business as well as their full-time jobs, they all enthusiastically recall their memories of interacting with their public. “ We aim to promote our brand among teenagers or even younger. But in actuality, we reach people from different backgrounds, ages, and social groups.” As an emerging brand, this group of young entrepreneurs understands the necessity of being business-oriented and tries to maintain their revenues and expenses. “But aside from earning money, couldn’t we do a little more for the society?” Marco continued. “Therefore, we are trying to run a business, but at the same time fulfil some mission which is similar to a non-governmental organisation or a cultural organisation. Comparatively, it is more sustainable than a normal business model. ”
Value is not just only calculated by currency; the historical meanings and stories create a secondary value to the artefacts. Even a postcard is valuable to them.
© Morpheus Antique
“To live is to share and inherit what you get so that you and others have a chance to live better.” a member from the operational team said poetically. She expresses “An antique requires a chance to wait and discover, they existed and survived from “pre-pre-previous” generations. What we are trying to do is to help them regain their life, we are just a transfer station before they meet their next master.”
“Perhaps we are not presenting a very unique perspective to the audience but what we are doing is reintroducing the things that you might neglect, ignore from your daily life, and then questioning our audience, requiring them to reflect and rethink their life. If this kind of voice gradually decreases or even disappears from our society, our society will have less and less care for all these cultures, or even purely human issues. At the end we might only have a few statements and official versions of “what is an antique?” But what would they explain? maybe the only answer they could give you is that an antique is just an old object, that’s it.”
Marco used Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier as an example. This pier was demolished in 2006, but many local associations and citizens were dissatisfied about this act and claimed that it destroyed Hong Kong citizens’ collective memory. However, Marco pointed out that not everyone living in Hong Kong felt a connection with the pier. If there are no connections built between the artefacts and a public from different social groups, ages, and backgrounds, then that could make it difficult for the artefacts to resonate with some people . Terminology is not a strong enough reason to get people’s attention, but explaining the story behind an object, understanding the relationship between it and yourself, that is the main objective.
When the interview came to an end, a statement was made: “Be the best you can be!” A member from the design team said this with pride, his smile warm as a sunset.
This interview was conducted in English by Yannie Hung.