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Treasures of art at World Expo

IF you can brave the queues and crowds, the World Expo offers artistic delights - French masterpieces, Belgian modern art, treasures of Chinese civilization from the Bronze Age and Buddhist caves and Leonardo da Vince's sketches of urban design. Wang Jie is your guide. France Pavilion

The spotlight of the France Pavilion shines on seven masterpieces, national treasures on loan from the Musee d'Orsay. It is said that the six canvases and one sculpture are valued at more than 100 million euros (US$123 million) and that insurance is astronomical.

They include paintings by Jean-Francois Millet, Edouard Manet, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Paul Cezanne, and a sculpture by Auguste Rodin.

"The Angelus" by Millet, which depicts a farming couple praying in a field as dusk falls, was exhibited at the World Expo in Paris in 1867.

"The Age of Bronze," a life-size nude male by Rodin, was displayed at the 1889 and 1900 World Expos.

The works are presented in a gallery with natural wood flooring, suggesting the atmosphere in the Musee d'Orsay.

Although security is tight, there are no special requirements for visitors once they have entered the pavilion.

On average, around 8,000 visitors an hour view the masterpieces that are displayed together for the first time.

Belgium Pavilion

Artist Lieve Dejonghe presents an exclusive installation for the Expo Shanghai.

The work (4-meter-high, 1.3-meter-wide) consists of four suspended paintings, one picture and a commercial slogan inspired by the pavilion's focus on chocolate.

Dejonghe integrates elements of Chinese and Western culture and uses chocolate as a subject, as she has done for years.

A glass panel bears the engraved commercial slogan, "The art of chocolate" written in six Chinese characters.

The work is to be read from top to bottom; the three upper paintings have a different pictorial character than the bottom one.

Viewers' attention is guided through the three "white" paintings by a splendid red Chinese brush. On the fourth painting is a red sheet of paper bearing the Chinese character for happiness. Finally the picture at the bottom shows the quiet environment of the artist's studio, a strong contrast with the hectic Expo.

She asks the question "What is art?" and defies her artistic environment.

"Living in a country where it is trendy to consider only conceptual art as real art, I have stubbornly been going my own way and perfecting my own style for 15 years," she says.

The artist's solo exhibition is running at the Spring Gallery through the end of June.

Urban Footprints Pavilion

The pavilion presents stages of urban development and is divided into four halls: preface, city derivation, city development and city intelligence.

The exhibition contains a replication of Yulin Cave No. 25, the famous Buddhist cave in Dunhuang in Gansu Province. It features a fresco titled "Pure Land of Buddhism" featuring palaces, winding corridors, birds soaring above and abundant flowers.

The treasures on display are Buddhist statues, a bodhisattva statue and sutra.

The ancient chime-bells, called the Zeng Hou Yi Bell Set, is another highlight in the pavilion. It is the largest bell set discovered in China, with 65 sets and a range of five octaves.

The exhibition includes relics from San Xing Dui, by far the largest, longest and richest ancient city in southwestern China, near what is Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. The spectacular relics include bronze heads and gilded masks once used in sacrifice rituals.

Relics and art of other cities around the world are also exhibited. They include a reproduction of the fresco "The School of Athens' (1510-11) by Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci's manuscripts of architecture and city design.

Expo Museum

The permanent museum explains the history of World Expos in four parts: preface, history, invention and operation.

The highlight is a canvas depicting the first World Expo - the 1851 London Expo. Created by Henry Courtney Selous (1803-90), it is the first painting of the exhibition and is on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The painting commemorates the exhibition being opened by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

The painter includes a Chinese official at the ceremony, probably the first Chinese person to attend the Expo.

In addition, Picasso's painting "Guernica" (1937) is on display. The enormous work is about the chaos of the Spanish Civil War and was first exhibited in 1937 during the World Expo in Paris.

Over the years, many important works of art were exhibited at Expos.

Great music also was heard during the events and these can be heard in the museum's Expo Music Box section.

One of the most famous is the "Blue Danube Waltz" by Strauss, performed at the Paris Expo of 1867 and the Vienna Expo of 1873.


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