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Art institutes opening up to European ideas

LARGE art academies and institutes in China used to be a pivotal base for the Picassos of tomorrow to realize their dream in art.

But the glamour has faded in the past decade, as stereotypical teaching and ideas have restricted wild young souls. Some of them, especially after shying away from the mainstream, have unwittingly become big stars on the international art stage thanks to a more open and tolerant environment in the country in recent years.

However several art academies and institutes have already started to inject new practices and strategies into their operations, in the hope of formulating new ideas and livening up the campus air.

For example, "Visual Dialogue: Workshop between Chinese and European Artists," organized by the Chinese National Academy of Arts and Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination, was recently on display for one week at the Mingyuan Art Center.

In fact, it is one of the events for "The 3rd European-Chinese Cultural Dialogue."

The seminar invited about 130 experts in culture and art both home and abroad to brainstorm on topics such as Chinese and European art states, city and cultural diversity, cultural and ecological civilization.

"The critical thing of this dialogue is to focus on the common fate of today's Chinese and European culture. How to jump out of the 'simple comparison' between the two or the mere 'novelty-seeking' tour," says Xu Jiang, the president at the Chinese National Academy of Arts. "We organized the artists' workshop in the hope that they will have a mutual stimulation in their creation process."

The visual dialogue included five Chinese artists and five European artists in different areas such as print, digital media, photography and architecture.

Wang Donglin and German painter Martin Wehmer's thoughts collided in an overwhelming piece that merges Chinese calligraphy and abstract painting, while Li Kaisheng and Liane Lefaivre explored the relationship between city and game through their design for a playground in the post-earthquake reconstruction of Dujiangyan in Sichuan Province.

"This is the first exhibition of Chinese-European Cultural Dialogue, which in my eyes is a perfect expression model," Xu says.

Frequent exchanges with the West are becoming a trend for local art academies and institutes.

"A Date with Marseille," an exhibition currently showcased in the newly built museum of Shanghai Oil Painting & Sculpture Institute, is such an example.

The exhibition features about 57 pieces ranging from canvas, sculpture, installation, video to new media created by 29 teachers from Ecole Superieure des Beaux-Arts de Marseille.

"They will trigger our thoughts in art concepts and meanings at a deep level," says Li Xiangyang, the president of the Shanghai Oil Painting & Sculpture Institute.

With a history of 260 years, Ecole Superieure des Beaux-Arts de Marseille is among the top 10 most-favored art academies among Chinese students and today the academy is one of the major gatherings for French intellectuals.

"Similar to its background, our institute also nurtured a cluster of big names including Chen Yifei and Zhou Bichu," Li furthers. "This exhibition is not a one-way communication."

The artworks created by teachers at Shanghai Oil Painting & Sculpture Institute were unveiled in Marseille in early September.

"Such an exchange tour really broadens our vision in both art education and concepts," Li says. "Our teachers and students can't be isolated from the outside world, and it is our responsibility to provide more exposure for them and introduce some outside artworks here."

"A Date With Marseille"

Date: through November 14, 9am-4pm

Address: 111 Jinzhu Rd


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