Singapore - Singapore Art Museum (SAM) and Xu Beihong Museum are proud to present Xu Beihong in Nanyang, a solo exhibition on one of the most seminal figures in the history of modern Chinese painting. Featuring 90 works, selected from both public and private collections from around the world, this exhibition serves as an unprecedented opportunity to examine many of Xu’s most important works completed in Southeast Asia and India, a number of which have never been exhibited publicly before. On view 5 April through 17 August, 2008.
The exhibition opening will be officiated by Guest of Honour, Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, on 4th April 2008, Friday, 6.30pm, at the Glass Hall, Singapore Art Museum. Media preview led by the curators will be held on the same day at 11am at the Glass Hall.
Apart from his larger than life persona and dramatic life story spanning continents and wars, Xu was one of the first to articulate the need for artistic expressions that reflected a new modern China at the beginning of the 20th century. He was also regarded as one of the first to create monumental oil paintings with epic Chinese themes, thereby demonstrating his proficiency in a medium and category of art that was essentially Western in origin.
Says Mr Kwok Kian Chow, SAM Director, “Xu Beihong is one of the first names to be mentioned when we consider the topic of realism in Asian modern art. His connections with Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Indonesia (through his friendship with Lee Man Fong), India (at the invitation of Rabindranath Tagore) and his earlier education and travels in Europe (1919-1927) point to a network of historical narratives, exchanges and influences of aesthetics and ideas. More significantly, in the case of this exhibition, there are points of parallels and indirect connectivity which we have yet to explore in the writing of modern art history of Asia.”
However, in the story of Xu’s contribution to the development of modern Chinese painting, there is an important Nanyang chapter that is located in Singapore, Malaya and India. Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, these were the places that proved to be his sanctuaries, where he was able to seek inspiration and nourishment.
Between 1939 and 1941, he held one show in Singapore, two in India and three in Malaya (Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh). The exhibitions were always well-supported and helped Xu to raise funds for the war relief effort in China. In his travels to India, he met luminaries such as Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi, as well as gathered source materials for his iconic paintings such as The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains, a 4.21m wide painting featured in this exhibition. Many of his most significant works such as After a Poem of the Six Dynasties, Portrait of Ms Jenny and Put Down Your Whip were also created during his sojourns in Southeast Asia.
Says Ms Liao Jingwen, Director of Xu Beihong Museum and wife of late Xu Beihong, “This exhibition is an extension of Xu Beihong's efforts to build friendships and promote cultural exchange between China and Singapore. We believe that this exhibition will evoke fond memories from Singaporeans of those times, and they will derive great enjoyment from the beauty of these works.”
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