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National Art Museum Welcomes Visitors
After closing for a thorough 15-month refurbishment, the China National Art Museum will reopen on July 23.

"That day, visitors will be able to see not only the national art museum with a new face, but also enjoy some fascinating exhibitions of Chinese art," Yang Lizhou, director of the museum, told a press conference yesterday in Beijing.

The reopening comes two months late because of delays due to the SARS outbreak in Beijing. The ceremony was originally scheduled for May 23, to mark the 40th anniversary of the museum's founding.

"We are glad that July 23 proves to be a better date. It allows us to have more time to refine the facilities and prepare for the exhibitions," Yang explained.

The China National Art Museum was closed for a major renovation in late April of last year, amid widespread criticism over its outdated facilities and inadequate management. It was felt that these areas needed improvement to match its importance as the nation's top venue for viewing modern and contemporary Chinese art.

The refurbishment of the art museum is among many substantial efforts by the government to upgrade the facilities and services of cultural institutions and meet the increasing demand for the arts among Chinese and international visitors, insiders say.

According to Wu Qiong, a museum representative, the art museum will give more weight to displaying permanent collections in its regular exhibitions. As well, the interior exhibition environment has been vastly improved and the installation of exhibits has become more professional.

For the first time, five special exhibitions of the museum's permanent collections will be shown on a rotating basis, with catalogues and free pamphlets available.

In the past, the permanent collections were seldom open to the public, although the museum is well known for housing more than 60,000 precious works of art in modern Chinese history. And most of them were not catalogued.

One of the exhibitions is "100 Years of Fine Arts: Masterpieces in the Collection of the China National Art Museum," which features more than 100 selected works by 100 famous artists in the 20th century.

The rest of the shows include an exhibition of papercut, a collection of Western art works donated by the Ludwig family in Germany, and an exhibition of works produced and donated by the late sculptor Liu Kaiqu, the first director of the National Art Museum.

Hoping to upgrade the quality of its exhibitions, the museum has also established a curatorial committee that includes renowned art historians and critics such as Shao Dazhen, Shui Tianzhong, Fan Di'an, Lang Shaojun, Liu Xiaochun, An Yuanyuan and Liu Xilin. Most of the committee members are experts in their respective fields invited from outside of the museum.

There have also been improvements to services for patrons which include renovated restrooms, added seats for visitors to rest, more elevators, and a fast food restaurants and a cafe in the facility.

Besides the permanent collection shows, an exhibition entitled "Open Era" will also start on July 23. It will feature works by 126 Chinese artists born after 1940 and active since the 1980s. The works are in the categories of Chinese ink painting, oil painting, prints, sculpture, and video works and installation.

"Noticeably, works by cutting-edge contemporary artists such as Cai Guoqiang, Xu Bing and Fang Lijun will be featured in the exhibition," said Liu Xilin, a researcher and art critic from the museum. "This represents the museum's increasing openness to Chinese new art."

A symposium called "Social Transformation and Artistic Evolution" will also be held, attracting more than 40 leading art scholars and museum administrators from across China to the National Art Museum.

(China Daily July 12, 2003)

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