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May 17 2017

Container Ship Carrying Chinese Artworks to Venice Catches Fire

by Jia Dong

The exhibition “Memory and Contemporaneity,” a collateral event during the Venice Biennale, has been impacted after a container ship carrying artworks from China to Italy caught fire. All photos by HG Masters for ArtAsiaPacific.

On Tuesday, April 4, the container ship MSC Daniela, which was carrying artworks by Chinese contemporary artists and other items from the collection of Beijing’s Palace Museum, caught fire while steering near Sri Lanka. The fire was put out the following day by Indian and Sri Lankan personnel, and the MSC Daniela suffered no major damage. The artworks being transported on the container ship were meant to be exhibited in “Memory and Contemporaneity,” a collateral exhibition of the 57th Venice Biennale promoted by the Palace Museum. Because of the fire, some artworks will not be installed until mid-June, a month after the show’s opening on May 11.

Chinese artist Li Hongbo shared additional details with ArtAsiaPacific about the fire on the MSC Daniela: “It was the living quarters of the boat that caught fire, so the ship was delayed several days.”

Information about the fire that broke out on the MSC Daniela was incorporated into the show, temporarily taking the place of artworks that will be presented in mid-June, a month after the show’s opening.
Information about the fire that broke out on the MSC Daniela was incorporated into the show, temporarily taking the place of artworks that will be presented in mid-June, a month after the show’s opening.
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“Memory and Contemporaneity” is divided into three sections. The first act was designed to reflect the heterogenity and diversity of Chinese artworks, beginning with items from the Palace Museum’s collection, and then moving on to contemporary creations. The Chinese contemporary artists included in the show are Xu Bing, Feng Lianghong, Gu Wenda, Song Dong, Geng Xue, Zhang Qikai, Peng Wei, Lee Mingwei, Qiu Zhijie, Sui Janguo, Jiang Jian, Shang Yang, Ding Yi, Li Songsong and Li Hongbo. Some among the group employ traditional mediums, such as ink, to address contemporary issues.

The second act of the exhibition marks the intercultural interaction between Italy and China. Five Italian designers—Antonio Citterio, Michele De Lucchi, Stefano Giovannoni, Piero Lissoni and Italo Rota—combine Chinese tradition decorative materials, such as silk and ceramics, with Italian artisanship in their creations. The show’s final act is comprised of 17 short films shot in the studios of contemporary Chinese artists.

Images of the fire that impacted the MSC Daniela were incorporated into the display in Venice, with wall texts narrating the incident. As of Sunday, May 14, there were only two artworks on show: the map painting Memory is Not Reliable (2016) by Qiu Zhijie and another massive painting, Beihai (2016), by Li Songsong. Regarding the delayed shipment of artworks from China to Italy, Li Hongbo said, “All of the artists had previously taken photos of their artworks, so at the opening of the exhibition, they exhibited photos and videos of all the artworks, like a photo exhibition. Only once the artwork arrives will it be installed.”

“Memory and Contemporaneity” runs from May 13 to November 26, 2017.

Jia Dong is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

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