Subway art exhibition a movable feast
Updated: 2013-06-26 10:11
By Zheng Xin (China Daily)
People will be able to enjoy artworks provided by the Central Academy of Fine Arts while taking subway Line 4 in Beijing from this weekend. Provided to China Daily
Residents in the Chinese capital who are too busy to spend time enjoying the arts will be able to immerse themselves in an inspiring art exhibition while riding the subway.
From this weekend, Beijing subway Line 4 will decorate two of its carriages with paintings provided by the Central Academy of Fine Arts, as a traveling art gallery for city commuters.
"Fine works of art deserve better exposure, and the subway is undoubtedly a great medium," says Wang Huangsheng, director of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts Art Museum.
Wang says the mobile art museum is expected to bridge the gap between artistic works and the public, and will draw more residents to art museums to view the original works.
According to Song Liang from the public education department of the CAFA Art Museum, the traveling museum consists of replicas of works on show in the CAFA Art Museum.
The first selection of art pieces to be displayed include works by Italian painter and sculptor Aligi Sassu, and oil paintings by well-known and pioneering Chinese artists.
It is the first long-term project to attempt to bring the public into closer contact with fine arts.
Song says the museum is also planning to set up video presentation equipment at seven subway platforms, to better introduce commuters into the world of fine arts.
Song says staff will help maintain the paintings while distributing cards and brochures to passing commuters explaining the works on show.
"We simply want more of the public to know about fine works of art and be inspired to go to an art museum one day," says Song.
According to Hou Wei from Artistes en Herbe, an organization dedicated to promoting artistic works among children, China lags far behind other countries in terms of engagement with the arts, with less art museums and different art spaces on offer.
"City residents barely grasp the concept of going to an art gallery for recreation in their spare time, even in first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai that have many art galleries and museums," he says.
Second-tier cities, with fewer museums and even less education about art, are worse.
People abroad often go to museums and galleries, but not in China, he says.
According to a survey on children's art literacy education released this month and conducted by the youth education research center under the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, only 4.23 percent of parents frequently take their children to art exhibitions and cultural shows.
Many parents cite the shows' high fees and their own schedules as reasons they do not visit.
The influence of the art museum is not as great as it was in the past, with the works of art poorly connected to the public, says Hou.
Dong Jiaqi, a 27-year-old student at Beijing Foreign Languages School, says the mobile art gallery is a fun endeavor.
"The ticket to some art museums is not cheap for me, and the ride takes too long," she says. "What's cool about the mobile art gallery is you see what's on in the CAFA Art Museum while riding the subway."
The workshop Hou works with organizes an art appreciation class every weekend in which children can learn about art in museums or bookstores, with plain-speaking explanations that are easy to understand.
"It is not expected the kids will become art masters through the activities. We simply hope they are exposed to a world rich with possibilities and diversity," he says.
Hou says the subway exhibitions are a good way for residents to get to know great artists from China and abroad.
"We have great works. What we lack is the channel to show them, and the subway is absolutely a great way to get the work out there," he says.
For people who spend several hours in the subway every day hurrying between the office and home, the traveling gallery allows them to ponder, meditate and communicate with great minds, says Hou.
"Of the 1,000 people who see a painting, 100 might take a picture, 50 might search online for the story behind the colors, 20 might remember the artist of the work, and two might be introduced to a brand new world, brimming with colors, inspiration and enlightenment," he says.
He suggested the subway present a greater range of art - not only paintings but sculptures.
"If only the capital's subway was not so crowded," he says.
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