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September 8, 2011

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Home » Metro » Entertainment and Culture

Former top art academy to be protected

SHANGHAI'S cultural relics authority yesterday promised to protect the former site of what was once the best art academy in China but which has deteriorated into shabby homes over the last 60 years.

The three buildings of the former Shanghai Art Academy in Huangpu District will not be demolished as previously planned, because the compound was the first private arts school in China and most Chinese modern artists studied there, said Li Kongsan, an official with the Shanghai Cultural Relics Management Commission.

The decision was made after Liu Chan, daughter of China's modern art education trail-blazer Liu Haisu (1896-1994) who founded the academy in 1912, called on the public to save the legacy of her father.

In the mid-1950s, Liu Haisu moved the academy to Nanjing in neighboring Jiangsu Province, and the old site became residential buildings for teachers of another nearby school.

"I am heartbroken, and I think my father would be more, to see his most important legacy being a mess and even might vanish," she told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

The European-style main building of the academy is now hidden behind stores and rows of hanging laundry.

The former studios where ground-breaking nude models were used in painting classes in 1914 for the first time in China are now home to beds and tables, while the piano rooms on the ground floor became kitchens.

More than 40 families are living in the three-story building that has undergone several renovations. Liu said a lot of valuable designs had been damaged.

The colored glass roof, which allowed lots of light into the studios, was destroyed and replaced with concrete, while a set of concrete steps shaped like open arms, which graced the front entrance, are damaged, she said.

The residents are also struggling to live in the buildings.

The home of 88-year-old Ge Fuxi, the oldest resident in the building who has lived there for 58 years, has no toilet or bathtub. He has to walk five minutes to go to a public toilet that was built on the former basketball court.

The residents have refused to pay the electricity fees for several years as a protest and to urge the government to move them out from the shabby environment.

"The commission wants to move them out soon so as to renovate the buildings and turn it into an art museum, but cannot afford the huge moving cost," said Zhang Fuqiang, another official for the commission.


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