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Biennale closes but controversy remains
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The two-month 2008 Shanghai Biennale closed yesterday, having attracted around 270,000 visitors.

The exhibition was themed "Translocalmotion." Fifty-eight artists or art groups from 21 countries and regions displayed their ideas about human life in dynamic urban environments, including the socioeconomic conditions, the logics of migration and its subsequent cultural implications.

"I will miss those long lines queuing outside the entrance gate at the Shanghai Art Museum," said Zhang Qing, one of the curators and the vice director of the Shanghai Art Museum. "The fever of the public toward the Shanghai Biennale and the contemporary art scene really excited our curating team. We are glad to see that many ordinary Chinese people have started to accept the new forms of contemporary art."

Daisy Dai, a 30-something white-collar worker was one of them. "I didn't have time to go to the biennale before. But today is the last day, and I couldn't miss it, otherwise I would have another two years to wait."

However, there is still some controversy about this year's show within the art community, as some thought it functioned more as a "carnival" or as "entertainment" than a serious art exhibition.

"I don't think this is the right direction for the Shanghai Biennale," said an insider who didn't want to be identified. "We do not show those visually striking works just to please the public. The curating team needs to guarantee the quality of the pieces they choose. Art is not something to entertain but to inspire."

Zhang disagreed. "I also heard the negative remarks," he said. "All of them were about the long train, the gigantic dinosaur and the huge plane. True, these pieces were visually striking, yet they were not shallow."

Zhang added that, unlike the other 200 biennales that go on around the world, "the Shanghai Biennale is fused with a special trait. Due to the special conditions in our country, modern or contemporary art has come rather late to the public. It will take time and patience for ordinary people to approach it. I am already anticipating our next biennale, which coincides with the World Expo 2010."

Established in 2000, the Shanghai Biennale is one of the most influential in the Asian area. "Hyper Design," the 2006 Biennale, drew around 230,000 visitors.

(Shanghai Daily November 17, 2008)

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