Discovering the real art of a new culture

written by Fiona Vella

altChina’s art sector is probably one of the most dynamic today since Chinese artists are constantly re-imagining the boundaries of art as they question their country’s role in the world. These artistic works can be viewed in the several popular art districts, key galleries and museums which are located in various areas around China.

751D Park – Beijing

I had thought that a visit to Beijing would only comprise an itinerary to historical sites. Therefore, this bustling contemporary art centre proved to be quite a surprise.

Having been transformed from an industrial plant into an artistic hub, 751D Park boasts an area of 40,000 square metres and is now a very renowned area for art lovers. Its distinguished Bauhaus-style architecture has succeeded to blend harmoniously with the places’s new character which now houses many art galleries, bookshops, cafes and restaurants.

Although I am not an avid art enthusiast, a stroll around the various shops and art exhibitions of this park served as a portal to another facet of China and its culture. Each outlet provided the opportunity to discover and purchase works of unique styles, original designs and ultimate creativity.

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Liu Fei - An enchanting war (1) - Photo by Fiona VellaI was particularly captivated by Liu Fei’s artistic exhibition named ‘An Enchanting War’. The artist described his sharp creations as his contemplation of future wars. Through them, he attempted to engage in social and political life in order to express his distaste and criticism on war. His main theme examined whether future warfare would be a performance of pretences? In his strong and bizarre artworks, there was no boundary between beauty and ugliness, and violence and contention were combined cruelly.

The National Art Museum of China – Beijing

The National Art Museum of China is dedicated to collection, research and exhibitions of modern and contemporary artistic works in China. Although this structure started to be constructed in 1958 and was open to the public in 1963, its architecture features the traditional Chinese style as the main building is roofed with yellow glazed tiles and surrounded by corridors and pavilions.

This museum covers an area of more than 18,000 square meters and it includes 17 exhibition halls throughout its 5 storeys. It prides itself with more than 100,000 pieces of various collections, most of which are representative works of different periods and great artworks of Chinese art masters from the end of the 19th century till today.

Artist Liu Xia besides her work at the National Art Museum of China - Photo by Fiona VellaSince its establishment, this national museum has organized thousands of various artistic exhibitions which reflect the development of Chinese art. These activities have attracted millions of visitors each year and so this museum has also served as a significant platform for the artists involved.

During my visit, amongs its selection of expositions, this museum was holding the exhibition ‘Beautiful China: Call of Humanism’ which entailed the First National Fine Art Exhibition to help the disabled. The ensemble of 200 pieces of artworks included masterpieces of top artists of the contemporary art world,as well as works of disabled calligraphers and painters. Funds from the sales of these artworks were collected in order to assist the needs of the thousands of disabled Chinese individuals.

M50 – Shanghai

50 Moganshan Road or M50 art district as it is more popularly known, was a former textile mill in central Shanghai which has now been converted into a major zone of artistic galleries and exhibition spaces.

altThis quarter started to become popular with artists in the year 2000 when the first individuals were initially attracted by the cheap rent of the disused industrial space. Soon, other artists followed suit and nowadays this complex has become known for its trendy and high art quality.

Outdoor sculptures at 751D Park - Photo by Fiona VellaArt lovers who visit this place get a chance to enjoy and purchase some fantastic and unusual works directly from the artists themselves. The allure of this zone lies in the variety of displayed works using several mediums.Prices range from affordable to really expensive but one is expected to negotiate.

Popular with both local and international visitors, this art quarter is unpretentious but interesting and often thought provoking. Amongst the wide selection of creations, it is engaging to notice also some works of a rebellious nature.

(This article was published in the Travel, Leisure and Food Supplement in the Sunday Times of Malta dated 15 March 2015)

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