Latest outbreak pushes cultural events online

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Faced with closure during the latest COVID-19 outbreak in Shanghai, art museums and other cultural institutions have been generating colorful digital content to engage audiences.

"We are well aware of the importance of having an online presence. Our goal is not just to provide digital access to our exhibitions, but, more importantly, nurture new audiences and new artists in this contemporary age," says Chen Xiang, director of the China Art Museum Shanghai.

The museum has launched multiple platforms to host online tours, exhibitions and education programs. One of the digital exhibitions features some of the best-known artworks depicting Chinese striving for happiness through the past decades. The exhibition comprises more than 100 pieces of ink paintings, oil paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs and comic strips, arranged in six chapters.

The Light, a Chinese ink painting by Zhang Peichu, shot to fame when it was created in 1972. The large work, which measures 178.5 centimeters in height and 113 cm in width, depicts two men repairing a beacon light during a storm. Another famous painting featured at the show is The Pioneer, which was created by Chen Yifei and Wei Jingshan in 1972 and depicts workers laying rails during the construction of a new line. The artists visited the Meishan Iron Mine in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, before creating the huge painting that measures 4.4 meters by 1.96 meters.

The Shanghai art museum is also hosting a preview of artworks for an upcoming exhibition scheduled to take place later this year. The museum plans to invite artists, curators and others to host livestreaming tours of the show.

Some of the most popular exhibitions last year, such as a show of Marc Chagall's work at the Jiushi Art Museum, and artist Xu Bing's solo exhibition at the Museum of Art Pudong, are all available for public viewing online. Internet users can also listen to video clips of Xu telling stories about his most iconic works.

In 2020, Xujiahui Library, which is located in the historical Bibliotheca, built in 1847, presented the first large-scale exhibition of 104 items reflecting the cultural exchanges between China and the West through centuries. Now, Shanghai Library is reintroducing the exhibition as part of its online programs, with librarians providing guidance to audiences.

Among exhibits, a work of Michel Boym (1612-59) is displayed. The Polish missionary's Flora Sinensis is believed to be the first European publication about traditional Chinese medicine. The book describes the flora and fauna in China, underlining the medicinal properties of some plants. Another exhibit relates to John Calvin Ferguson (1866-1945), whose lifelong passion was the research and collection of ancient Chinese art.

The American scholar spent 57 years in China and played an active role in the country's cultural and educational fields. He was among the founding fathers of the University of Nanking and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The exhibition features his Survey of Chinese Art, which was published by Shanghai Commercial Press in 1939. The book covers a wide range of art, from bronze and jade to calligraphy and painting, and contains a large number of pictures of cultural relics.

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