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Garden tribute to Marco Polo

A CHINESE garden designed by artist Ye Fang will be part of the upcoming Venice Biennale in Italy's famous water town. It will feature in an exhibit called "A Gift for Marco Polo" at the event, which runs from June to November.

Models and conceptual designs for the garden will be displayed, along with works by eight other contemporary Chinese artists, all reflecting garden and paradise themes.

Among the sponsors are the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art and the Venice International University.

Commissioned in 2007, the 600-square-meter garden started construction recently at the university's grounds on the island of San Servolo at a cost of more than 10 million yuan (US$1.5 million).

"It will not simply be a copy of gardens in China but the result of an artistic concept of the essence of Chinese gardens from the Song (960-1279) and Tang dynasties (AD 618-907)," Ye said.

A fine artist by training, Ye built his first garden in Suzhou in 2003.

Covering 500 square meters it gained fame as a "living" garden attached to five homes, including one in which Ye's family resides.

According to Ye, the new garden in Venice will seek harmony between Chinese design and the Western architecture surrounding it, inspired by "paradise."

"When Marco Polo, the 13th century explorer, visited southern China and saw all its gardens, he described it as 'heaven on earth'," Ye said. "With this garden we complete his 800-year-old dream."

The biennale, founded in 1895, is a major contemporary art exhibition that takes place once every two years.


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