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October 23, 2010

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A touch of glass

IT seems Chinese glass art is enjoying a resurgence of popularity in the city with two spaces displaying works by artists from home and abroad. Wang Jie reports.

After two years of silence, the new Liuli China Museum with its signature decor - two huge peonies on the exterior wall - finally nestles down on Taikang Road.

Founded by former Taiwanese actress Loretta Hui-shan Yang and her husband Chang Yi, the museum, the first private glassware museum in Asia, was previously in Xintiandi since opening in 2006 until it closed its doors in 2008.

The museum in its new location has a land area of 2,400 square meters.

Thanks to the full-curtain glass wall, the new museum is open and vivid, as if echoing the special trait of liuli or colored glaze.

The first thing that catches the eyes are the two peonies on the exterior wall. The flowers, representing prosperity and honor in Chinese culture, are made of 5,025 stainless steel petals that were all hand-made.

"Compared with the one in Xintiandi, we have added more functional areas in this new museum to better display the liuli art and provide a relaxed and elegant environment for visitors," says Chang, a former film director.

The first floor is a casual place with a cafe, a book store and a gift shop. "The souvenirs in the gift shop are all created by excellent designers from around the world, using liuli, fabric, ceramics and eco-friendly materials," Chang adds.

The main exhibition halls are on the second and third floors. Enriched with thoughts on the meaning of life and motivated by the concerns on the preservation of cultural heritage, the opening exhibition "Mercy and Love" presents the beauty of liuli art created by Yang and prominent artist Emile Galle.

Perhaps many are familiar with Yang's artworks, as she subtly and intricately fuses the essence of Chinese culture into liuli. Her signature works are Buddhas and blossoming peonies.

Meanwhile, Galle is inspired by nature. Each of her works is a vivid representation of natural beauty: the flying butterflies, the serene forests, the reeds thriving in the water and the flowers shaken by the winds.

The exhibition will also open with the debut of an animation "Nuwa Mends the Sky," which is produced by the a-hha studio under the supervision of Chang.

Besides the exhibition of liuli, seminars, events, theme nights and liuli classes will provide a platform for visitors to learn more about the special art form and the charisma of Chinese culture.

For liuli lovers, there's also another treat awaiting.

"iGlass" is a glassware art exhibition featuring big names from around the world such as Bert van Loo, Jens Gussek and Marvin Lipofsky.

"The exhibition offers a great variety of young and mature artists," says Karen Zheng, owner of the Levant Gallery where the exhibition is held. "I hope the visitors can experience the irresistible beauty hidden in these art pieces."

Van Loo, a world-famous glass artist from the Netherlands, curates the exhibition.

"The duality of glass is particularly appealing to me," says van Loo. "Glass is soft and sensual when it's hot. Once cooled, it's hard and sharp. At the same time, it's vulnerable and fragile.

"Glass is visible, yet invisible; solid, yet fluid; as transparent as water, yet as hard as a rock," he adds. "Personally, I am quite familiar with the very first movement of studio glass art, which started in 1972 in Zurich, Switzerland, and promoted glass as a free medium for art and architecture. At that time, only a few people were working with glass, but now thousands of artists use it as an artistic medium."

According to van Loo, making art is a constant process of searching and researching, as the artist must invest his or her personal energy into the work to achieve an articulate expression of his or her emotions. At a certain point, the work achieves the power to absorb that energy, and let it flow back to the artist.

"I am sure that you, the viewer will feel that energy too," van Loo says.

One intriguing piece on display is created by Ellen Urselmann. The "No Title 2009" features a water faucet with a big transparent water bubble.

According to Urselmann, a thought or a feeling can only be captured in a short moment before it loses its palpability. But Urselmann tends to capture that feeling just before intangibility.

Unlike her, Jens Gussek's objects are filled with a serious yet playful approach both in substance and sculpture. He plays well with different materials such as wood, metal, glass and even color. His game with extremely different scales generates a fantasy world.

"For me, glass itself is a fascinating and mysterious material," says Julius Weiland, a German artist. "Thus I created my own style."

? Liuli China Museum

Date: Daily (closed on Mondays), 10am-5pm

Address: 25 Taikang Rd

Admission: 20 yuan (free in October)

? "iGlass" exhibition

Date: through November 20 (closed on Mondays), 10am-6pm

Venue: Levant Gallery, 4/F, 28B Yuyao Rd

Tel: 5213-5366


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