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Olympic confusion

By Yin Yeping (Global Times)

11:18, July 16, 2012

Viewers take in paintings at the exhibition. Photo: Yin Yeping/GT

Four years have passed since Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympic Games, yet the emotion tied to this campaign has never faded.

The Beijing Special Exhibition of the Fine Arts Exhibition London in 2012 being held in the National Art Museum of China from July 13 to 20 is a result of this fever. 130 paintings by Chinese artists are being displayed here and were all made specially for this event.

The link to the Olympics is drawing the crowds, particularly since the museum is free to visit. However, entering the exhibition on the third floor, visitors may feel their Olympic frisson turn to a look of confusion. The paintings revolve mainly around Chinese themes but have little to no Olympic references. Ink and oil paintings of animals or of pastoral scenes dot the walls, among a few callouts to a cycle race, horse riding or a portrait of Juan Antonio Samaranch, the former International Olympic Committee president. Beyond this, the lack of any symbols of the Olympics may lead some to feel they are in the wrong show.

What audiences may not know is that the highlight of this activity is not here in Beijing but in London, which is why this one here is called Beijing Special Exhibition. According to the curator, Bi Jianxun, a much larger exhibition will be held in August at the Barbican Centre in London, featuring over 1,300 paintings by around 800 artists from 70 countries. "We are responsible for collecting these paintings around the world," Bi said. "Our activity has been approved by the London Olympic Committee as one of the cultural projects of the London Olympic Games." He added that the painters exhibited in Beijing will see their works displayed about London, but that those works will have more direct links to the world of sports.

The role of the exhibition here is rather different. "We need money to conduct the exhibition, including paying 50,000 yuan to every foreign artist in return for offering their paintings for us to display in London," Bi said.

21-year-old student Li Haoyi was confused about the purpose of the show. "Despite the fact that the paintings here are well-done, I feel that connecting this exhibition with the Olympic Games is farfetched," she said. "The curator should at least give a clear interpretation for the audiences who came all the way here to see the show."

Even in terms of the paintings, Li has reservations. "Most of the visitors have little knowledge about art," she said. "So instead of just giving the name of the painting and the artist, wouldn't it be better if the original intentions of the artists were detailed alongside their works?"

"Most of the art here I have never seen before," said Andy Delaney, a contemporary art student. Yet he also could find no relevance to the London Olympic Games. On the little notes besides, some bore a little logo saying "Inspired by London 2012," which befuddled visitors even further as they could see no visible inspiration by the London Olympics in the paintings.

Liu Tongbo, Chief Representative of the Greater London Authority in China, told the Global Times that the exhibition's logo was linked to "Inspire a Generation," the slogan of the 2012 Olympics. Liu thinks the involvement of Chinese artists doubles up as showing Chinese support for the Olympics and promoting Chinese art through the prism of the Games.

When: Until July 20

Where: National Art Museum of China,No.1, Wusi Dajie, Dongcheng district

Admission: Free

Contact: 6400-1476

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