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July 16, 2022

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Western masters arrive in city

To make up for the past three months of silence in the local art scene, two heavyweight exhibitions — “Masters of Western Art: The Collection of the Rockefeller Art Foundation” and “Giorgio Morandi” — were unveiled last week in Shanghai.

Running at the Aurora Museum in the Pudong New Area through September 25, “Masters of Western Art” is also the debut official collaboration exhibition of the Rockefeller Art Foundation in China.

It showcases more than 100 works by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Salvador Dali (1904-1989), Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) and Arman Pierre Fernandez (1928-2005) — five renowned Western artists. The works span from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 21st century.

Ranging from oil paintings, watercolors, prints, porcelain to installation and publications, the artworks are chosen from different eras, genres and backgrounds in Western art history.

As one of the most innovative sculptors in the 19th century and one of the founders of Nouveau Realism, Fernandez was much influenced by Dadaism.

The exhibition features his most iconic works. The artist would disassemble stringed instruments and then harmoniously integrate them into a sculpture to illustrate his unique views on music.

It also highlights Picasso’s ceramics, lithographs and linocuts, including his self-portrait “Le Matador,” which was created just three years before his death in 1973, and “Mother and Child” during his Blue Period from 1901 to 1904. Picasso initiated several painting schools, such as Cubism, Neoclassicism and Surrealism, which have had a profound influence on the history of Western modern art.

A close friend of Picasso, Modigliani is one of the representative painters of the School of Paris in the early 20th century. He utilized Paul Cezanne’s method of expressing morphological structure and elongated the images through exaggerated deformation. The exhibition includes his “Portrait of Picasso” in 1915.

Many are familiar with Dali’s surrealism, and his “Twelve Signs of the Zodiac,” which comprises a portfolio of ceramic plates with constellation patterns, is a highlight.

Morandi was a master of metaphysical painting, and his artworks have lured visitors for more than half a century. His painting has a tonal subtlety in depicting ordinary subject, such as cups, plates vases and cans. The globally popular “Morandi’s color” was named after the hues in his still lifes.

This exhibition showcases some of his “Bottle” and “Landscape” series.

“I am essentially a painter of the kind of still-life composition that communicates a sense of tranquility and privacy, moods which I have always valued above all,” Morandi said.

For those who want to better understand the master of stillness, perhaps there is no other chance like the exhibition “Giorgio Morandi,” which is underway at Shanghai Jiushi Art Museum through October 9.

Promoted by the Italian Cultural Institute, the exhibition is the first complete review of the Bolognese artist in China. It features 51 original works on loan from the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome, the Morandi Museum in Bologna, as well as the Augusto and Francesca Giovanardi Collection.

Spanning his life, the exhibition unveils the inner universe of Morandi through his work of different periods in varied forms such as oil, pencil, watercolor, graphite and etching.

The artist’s charisma is apparent in his paintings.

Morandi was not affected by politics, two world wars and the changing world.

Through his life, he didn’t get married or even leave any record of his love affairs. The artist barely left Bologna where he just quietly painted daily objects around him in silence. His avoidance of public occasions or celebrity made him the most elusive of Italian artists of the 20th century, and his painting even more intimate and touching.

Morandi excelled at hiding profound thoughts in his seemingly common paintings.

“One can travel this world and see nothing,” he said. “To achieve understanding, it is necessary not to see many things, but to look hard at what you do see.”

For Morandi, the great significance of life lay in small objects and excellence in banality.

Visitors might need to review the mindset of the artist to enter his pure material universe where a group of ordinary objects are cleared of redundancy and reduced to their nature.

Morandi once said: “For me, there is nothing abstract. Moreover, I believe there is nothing more surreal and more abstract than reality.”

If inspected carefully, visitors might find the variation of arrangement of his later works.

Previously the bottles, cups, small vases and containers were placed next to each other, lined up in sequence, but in the rendering of his late years, these objects were grouped tightly together in the center of the canvas.

The subdued colors, clean lines and careful brushstrokes, plus the sense of emptiness in the surroundings, give the paintings of his final years an air of fragility, an evanescence on the brink of nothingness.

Today his works are not widely and frequently shown around the world, as most of them have been collected privately.

“For reason of art and temperament, I tend toward solitude,” he said. “My own desire is to continue to live with a little peace, which is the only thing that still allows me to work.”

“Masters of Western Art”

Date: Through September 25 (closed on Mondays), 10am-5pm (10am-9pm on Fridays)

Venue: Aurora Museum

Address: 99 Fucheng Rd, Pudong New Area

“Giorgio Morandi”

Date: Through October 9, 10am-6pm

Venue: Shanghai Jiushi Art Museum

Address: 6/F, 27 Zhongshan Rd E1


Tip: Appointment required. Make reservation on the museum’s WeChat account.


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