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US art show inspires East-West exchanges

Updated: 2018-03-06 07:35:54

( China Daily )

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An exhibition on the art of 18th-century Europe at a local museum is expected to inspire visitors to reflect on the exchanges between East and West, a top executive of the museum says.

The ongoing exhibition, entitled Casanova: The Seduction of Europe, presents the cultural and social world of Europe during the Age of Enlightenment with one of its most colorful characters, an Italian man named Giacomo Casanova who lived from 1725 to 1798, as a guide.

Through more than 80 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, period furnishings and delicate porcelain pieces, the exhibition, which runs through May 28 at the Legion of Honor Art Museum in downtown San Francisco, recreates the world of masked balls, palaces, theaters and operas at that time.

Casanova was considered by his own contemporaries to be a witty conversationalist, autobiographer, gambler, spy and one of the greatest travelers of all time, says Max Hollein, director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Casanova used to travel to Constantinople (today known as Istanbul), the Western terminus of the Silk Road linking Europe and China. The art works associated with him reflect Europe's strong interest in Asia as well as the intellectual and cultural exchanges between East and West, says Hollein.
"Casanova's time witnessed the world coming closer together, when people were traveling farther and (were) more open to new ideas," he says.

To achieve the best effect, the exhibition features several tableaux, where mannequins dressed in period costumes are surrounded by paintings, sculptures and decorative arts.

Porcelain, the creative fruit of the ancient Chinese, was introduced to Central Asia via the Silk Road and then introduced to Europe and became an important part of fine dining of during the 18th century.

A connoisseur of food, Casanova wrote in great detail about his meals in his memoirs. To highlight the importance of fine dining, an interactive exhibit enables visitors to experience an aristocratic three-course feast at a "dining table," using period porcelain and silver pieces, through an overhead video projection.

"We are most impressed by the period costumes and furniture, which help us visualize European life at that time," says a visitor from Beijing, who gave only his surname, Wang. He and his wife were visiting San Francisco during the Chinese New Year holiday.

He said visiting art museums was an important part of their US trip. "We want to have a genuine taste of classic Western art in a Western setting," says Wang, referring to the neoclassical architecture of the museum.

The FAMSF, comprising the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park and the de Young museum in Golden Gate Park, have received a growing number of visitors from China in recent years.

In 2016, the museums saw a 90-percent increase in website visits from China, and a 125-percent increase on the previous year in inquiries and bookings from Chinese tour groups. China is the biggest source of visitors from Asia, according to the FAMSF.

To accommodate the growing demand from Chinese visitors, the museums have recently provided Chinese language maps.

Audio tours in Chinese are expected to be launched this year.

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