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Beacons of distinction

By Alywin Chew | China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-03 08:30
Juan Carlos Diaz Vasquez. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The stories behind three of the foreigners who were conferred the Shanghai Magnolia Silver Award this year.

Editor's note: Named after the city flower, the Shanghai Magnolia Award ranks among the highest honors a foreigner can receive for his or her outstanding contributions to the city's economic and cultural industries. This prestigious award has three levels - Silver, Gold and the Honorary Citizen of Shanghai title. Only those who have won a silver are eligible for the gold, and an individual must have won both these titles before being nominated for the honorary citizen accolade. Fifty foreigners from 19 countries were conferred this year's Magnolia Silver Award during a ceremony held on Sept 12. The winners of this year's award, all of whom have spent several years working in the city, come from a wide range of industries, including economy, trade, finance, science and technology, education and health. China Daily talks to three of them.

A Spaniard's quest for excellence in a city that embodies it

When Juan Carlos Diaz Vasquez was a child, he aspired to become an archaeologist who could unravel the mysteries of the world.

The work he does today could be considered vaguely similar, though it does not involve searching for ancient relics or mummified remains of pharaohs. Rather, what this creative specialist in themed showcases unearths are facts from the past which he presents in innovative, eye-catching ways in exhibitions around the world.

One of these exhibitions takes the form of the Shanghai World Expo Museum, the world's first museum which documents the history of such expos since London's Great Exhibition in 1851.

Officially opened in May 2017, the Shanghai World Expo Museum was a result of a collaboration between the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) and the Shanghai municipal government.

As creative director of the museum's historic section, Vasquez is responsible for all design matters from start to finish, including crafting the philosophy and vision of the space, writing the content plan and supervising the production and installation of the contents.

The chance to work on this project, which the Spaniard ranks among his most memorable, came in 2013 when he took up an offer by BIE to develop the creative concept for the facility. Having been fascinated with Chinese culture for many years, Vasquez jumped at the opportunity.

"My training as an art historian means I feel especially drawn toward Chinese art and culture. I have been very impressed by many of the facilities in the city, including the Shanghai Museum, the Long Museum, the Art West Bund and the Shanghai History Museum," he said.

"In 1984 I visited an exhibition called 7,000 years of China in Venice which left a huge impression on me. It was the first time I saw the terracotta warriors and the jade burial suit which is now in the National Museum in Beijing. Working in Shanghai more than 30 years later is like rediscovering that incredible, revelatory experience," he added.

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