International Treasures : Same Time, Same Place
By staff reporter LI WUZHOU
SOME of the world’s greatest treasures are keeping each other company in the Shanghai Expo Park from May to October this year. Among them are masterpieces by Millet, Michelangelo and Frida Kahlo and iconic works such as The Little Mermaid from Denmark, The Golden Lady from Luxemburg, and The Manneken Pis from Belgium. You’ll also find the first bird fossil in the world, the genuine sariras of Sakyamuni and the skeleton fossils of Australopithecus. These rare valuables, most of which are being exhibited abroad for the first time, present visitors with a fascinating ark of culture, art and curiosities.
A Cornucopia of Paintings
Those with a penchant for brushworks should make a beeline for the France Pavilion. Partitioned off by a glass wall are six priceless national masterpieces collected by the Orsay Museum: Paul Gauguin’s The Meal ( also known as The Bananas), Edouard Manet’s The Balcony, Pierre Bonnard’s The Loge, Paul Cezanne’s Woman with a Coffee Pot, Van Gogh’s Al’s Ballroom and Millet’s The Angelus.
Capturing the captured: Paul Cezanne's Woman with a Coffee Pot. China Foto Press
To be on the safe side, the six masterpieces and Auguste Rodin’s The Age of Bronze were delivered to Shanghai in five batches, five of them insured for over €100 million each. “Long gone are the days when General De Gaulle, in 1963, authorized the Mona Lisa to be exhibited in the United States. In modern times it is risky and therefore rare to see seven ‘national treasures’ debut outside France simultaneously,” commented Franck Serrano, director of the France Pavilion.
The Italy Pavilion and Mexico Pavilion also sent paintings from their national collections. Basket of Fruit and Boy with a Basket of Fruit by Caravaggio grace the Italian structure. The more contemporary Frida Kahlo is perhaps Mexico’s best known artist, a surrealist wrestling with female and feminist themes. Her Self-Portrait, now in Shanghai, is valued at more than US$ 20 million.
China, as the host country, is not to be outdone on the national artwork score, offering an authentic copy of Qingming Festival at the Riverside by Qiu Ying of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The rarity of this appearance draws a lineup of visitors that snakes for miles before the entrance, and inspired organizers to install a 10-m-long conveyor belt to transport visitors forward and past the work. Qingming Festival at the Riverside is renowned for its over 2,000 vignettes making up a richly detailed panorama of the Qingming Festival as observed in areas south of the Yangze River in the mid-Ming Dynasty. The scroll is extolled as a “National Treasure,” along with the scroll by Zhang Zeduan of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127): a huge copy of Zhang’s Qingming Festival at the Riverside is concurrently on display on a 100-m-long wall in the China Pavilion. As you pass by and stare at this enlarged scroll, its lively characters appear to move.