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Feature: Chinese 798 Art Zone avant-garde artists exhibit for first time in Rome

by Alessandra Cardone

ROME, June 18 (Xinhua) -- A collective exhibition of Chinese contemporary artists from Beijing's 798 Art Zone was featured in the Italian capital this week, giving people here an unprecedented insight into China's artistic avant-garde.

"Beijing 798 Impression" was inaugurated on June 15 at the main building of the 16th century Villa Celimontana, which is home of the Italian Geographic Society, and would run until June 19.

Some 40 selected works from well-known artists were exhibited overall, bringing the experience of China's most notable contemporary artistic space to Italy for the first time ever.

Their paintings, pictures and sculptures hung from or lay on the shelves of the Geographic Society's library, whose rooms holds texts dated back to the 17th century, a world globe from the mid-19th century, or a mosaic tile floor from the third century AD.

Many visitors seemed most intrigued by the strong discordance between the modernity of the artworks and the surrounding scene.

"I visited the original 798 Art Zone in Beijing once, with its post-modern atmosphere," Monica Scarabottini from Rome told Xinhua.

"Here at the Villa Celimontana, the context is totally the opposite, and creates a positive strong contrast effect with the contemporary works of art."

Specialized in Sinology studies at Rome Sapienza University, Scarabottini seemed to appreciate the creative path covered by the Chinese artists.

"What I like most of them is that they often introduce a provocative element, and each of their works always seems to convey multiple messages," she explained.

"Furthermore, they often combine East and West, blending elements drawn from the traditional Chinese art and suggestions from contemporary life."

Some of the artworks on show would fit with these impressions. For example, there was Luo Brothers' fiberglass sculpture named 'Welcome Welcome', featuring the well-known plump smiling baby holding a Pepsi can.

There was the acrylic painting 'One Love' by Wu Mingzhong, with a woman embracing and kissing a child. Both were glassy, transparent figures, with an intense red color seemingly passing between them with the kiss.

"The woman seems Western, and the baby Asiatic. I wonder: is the mother feeding her child with that kiss, or the other way around?" Scarabottini said.

A final example was an embroidered panel by Chang Xugong's portraits series. "His subjects are always very contemporary, like in the pop art. Yet, he uses silk embroidery, which is one of China's ancient and most relevant forms of folk art," she noted.

Blending the Chinese avant-garde with Rome's ancient cultural heritage and landscape seemed indeed one key factor for bringing "Beijing 798 Impression" here.

The initiative was organized by China Council for the Promotion of International Trade Beijing Sub-Council and Beijing Administrative Committee of 798 Art Zone, in cooperation with Rome Expo.

Its goal was "to build an artistic bridge between China and Italy, showing the evolution of the Chinese society through the sensibility of some of its best contemporary artists," according to curator Cheng Xindong.

"The 798 has become one of the most exciting art districts in China and in the world," Cheng said.

On the other hand, "Rome has arts and history everywhere", and would provide a distinguished scene to exhibit Chinese contemporary works, according to him.

Such modern artistic injection was welcome, visitors confirmed.

"The exhibition is quite a novelty for Rome's artistic scene, and especially since it concerns contemporary art from China," medical student Angela Iurlaro told Xinhua.

"I knew it through a friend's twitter, and I came because I am most interested in the Asian cultures and arts".


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