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Art for the World probes urban future

TWENTY powerful and provocative Expo sculptures by international artists address the issues facing humanity and modern cities. After the World Expo, some will continue to pose profound questions as they face the Huangpu River. Wang Jie reports.

If visitors are daunted by the long queues before the China Pavilion in the World Expo 2010 site, they can stroll along Expo Boulevard and appreciate the awesome exhibition "Art for the World - A City of Forking Paths."

The 20 enormous sculptures by internationally renowned artists address fundamental questions facing humanity and modern cities - such as which fork in the road to take for a "Better City, Better Life."

After the Expo, nine works commissioned by the Expo or donated will remain as permanent reminders of challenges ahead.

The works occupy three levels of the 1,045-meter-by-140-meter exhibition space with a daylight canopy roof.

There's a boat built of steel and mirrors, a soaring 9-meter needle with a beam of light piercing its "eye" at night, a pair of pandas, a towering red steel boulder, a gilded tree of life, crystal orbs, a horse and carriage caught in a time warp and other provocative works.

"We knew this exhibition would be a challenge," says Ami Barak, French curator of the exhibition produced by JGM Galerie Paris-Shanghai. The mission was to enliven the long avenue with art, and it took two years.

Seventy million visitors are expected to make their way around the sculptures as they visit pavilions.

Sponsored by Martell, nine of the 20 works were commissioned by the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination or donated by sponsors. After the Expo, some sculptures remain and be positioned overlooking the Huangpu River. They include red "Dream Stone" by Sui Jianguo, the 9-meter-high steel needle created by Liu Jianhua, and the shiny stainless steel panda couple "He He, Xie Xie" made by Zhang Huan.

"'Art for the World' links ideas of happiness, a fair social order and the sharing of wealth, altruism, harmony and love," Barak says. "Nothing should stand in the way of what is human and natural. The main thread linking all the different works is a web of correspondences and solidarities, composing the order of things in the given time and place."

"The Arch of Triumph" created by Romanian artist Mircea Cantor is an urban monument covered in golden foil. It incorporates and updates universal symbols such as the door and the tree of life.

In northwest Romania, residents used to carve a tree of life on their doorway to repel evil. This recreated door/archway replaces the tree with a contemporary symbol of life, the double helix of DNA.

Abstract meanings

Liu, who created the monumental magnet in front of the Shanghai World Financial Center in Pudong, has enlarged another common object, a needle. Titled "Space Extended," the 9-meter-high artwork has an "eye" that is threaded by a ray of light at night.

The work symbolizes sewing, linking, accuracy and order. Concrete and simple, it contains many abstract meanings, giving visitors wide scope for the imagination.

"Curves for E.S." by American conceptual artist Dan Graham is a two-way pavilion, which mimics architecture in the city. The work evokes garden pavilions of the Renaissance, Rococo Western garden art and Chinese garden pavilions with their circular open portals and windows.

Visitors experience both sides of the architecture named after Eono Sarinen, a Finish-American modernist architect renowned for his use of arching structural curves.

Initially Sui found a beautiful stone on the building site of World Expo, and expanded it, using a red steel honeycomb structure to create a boulder, part of the landscape. Stones figure prominently in Chinese art and culture and Sui has turned this one into stone for the modern age.

"Is rapidly building a material life so critical to mankind's happiness? I doubt it," says the 56-year-old Chinese artist. "I think spiritual nourishment is the vital thing for people in the future."

Female sculptor Xiang Jing has become popular internationally in recent years for her depictions of women and nature. Her bronze-colored work "Infinite Polar" is a pyramid of 10 female acrobats performing in the famous old Shanghai circus.

"The work can blend into any environment and its absorptive visual effect touches the imagination and aesthetic of existence," Xiang says.

Another female artist, Leung Mee Ping from Hong Kong, uses mirrors and stainless steal to construct her simple "Mirror Boat." The rowboat's hull reflects the ambient moving Expo crowds and space, while the inside reflects the structural canopy, reflecting Shanghai's port culture.

English artist Julian Opie, whose works were exhibited during the 2008 Shanghai Biennale, is renowned for using LED technology.

For the Expo he creates life-sized panels featuring striking, glowing figures walking at random and suggesting, in a virtual way, the pedestrians strolling along the Expo Boulevard.

The Works

Liu Jianhua

"Space Extended"

Sui Jianguo

"Dream Stone"

Shen Yuan


Xiang Jing

"Infinite Polar"

Chen Changwei

"The Pillar of the 12 Zodiac Animals"

Tomas Saraceno

"Iridescent Planet Shanghai"

Peter Kogler


Julian Opie

"3 Men Walking, Jennifer Walking, Tina Walking"

Huang Zhiyang

"Possessing Numerous Peaks"

Xavier Veilhan


Zhan Wang

"Utopia Garden"

Mircea Cantor

"The Arch of Triumph"

Dan Graham

"Curves for E.S."

Pascale Marthine Tayou

"Shanghai Tree - Mikado Tree"

Li Songhua


Subodh Gupta

"A Giant Leap of Faith"

Wang Guangyi

"Water, East Wind, Golden Dragon"

Zhang Huan

"He He, Xie Xie"

Wim Delvoye

"Flatbed Trailer"

Leung Mee Ping

"Mirror Boat"


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