Framing a better world

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Framing a better world
An artwork on display at the ninth Beijing International Art Biennale. [Photo courtesy of NAMOC]

Beijing biennale celebrates humanity's creativity and resilience.

Sports and art are two fields that generate courage and hope, especially when the world is facing difficulties of all kinds. This is the core idea of the ninth Beijing International Art Biennale, now underway at the National Art Museum of China through Tuesday.

Organized by the China Artists Association, the biennale opened in the capital city that is also hosting the ongoing Winter Olympics in spite of the obstacles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overcoming difficult situations is not new to the biennale's organizers. The inaugural exhibition was unveiled in September 2003, showing hundreds of paintings and sculptures by artists from across the world, despite the SARS outbreak.

This year, the biennale brings together more than 700 works, some of which are displayed in rotation on digital screens due to shipping restrictions during the pandemic.

The title of the biennale, The Light of Life, salutes the perseverance shown by people from different walks of life in the face of the pandemic, especially medical workers in the fight against COVID-19 and the athletes who are striving on at the Winter Games.

Ma Fenghui, vice-chairman of the China Artists Association and a member of the biennale organizing committee, says the event has been built into an international "center stage" for contemporary paintings and sculptures, and this year celebrates the spirit of the Olympics and the shared fight against COVID-19.

"In addition to paintings and sculptures, installations, videos and mixed-media works are included in the biennale to present the diversity of the contemporary art scene," Ma says.

"Some artworks hail the bravery of doctors and nurses; some depict the strength of winter sports participants while challenging their physical limits; and others envisage the common future of humankind."

He says that, above all, the works on show address how people deal with themselves and others, and forge harmony with other lives in nature.

Presenting "special exhibitions" on the sidelines of the themed one has become a tradition of the biennale.

This year, there are five such shows, including one with 32 sports-themed works from artists in 16 countries that were exhibited at the biennale in previous years.

The biennale has assembled a collection of nearly 700 works, thanks to the donation made by featured artists on show, and selected pieces from its increasing holding at home and abroad have toured from time to time, says Shang Hui of the curatorial committee.

Another two exhibitions, Contemporary Art of Twelve European Countries and Giorgio Morandi's Prints, introduce to audiences in China the richness and diversity of European culture.

Lucia Sollinger, chief curator of the former exhibition, says it is to uncover the spirit and identity of Europe through artworks that represent different expressions and styles, and reveal a wealth of cultural traditions, against the background of a growing and undeniable globalization phenomenon.

Wang Yong, another member of the curatorial committee, says the show of Morandi's prints enriches people's knowledge of the Italian artist, whose oil paintings are more familiar to Chinese audiences.

"Morandi taught at the Bologna Academy of Fine Arts as a professor of etchings for decades. Creating prints also formed part of his venture into a distinctive style of art," he says.

Some 130 works on show have been donated, according to the organizing committee, and tours of art museums in Shandong, Sichuan and Jiangsu provinces are being planned.

People can also access the ongoing biennale by visiting its official WeChat account.

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