2015 | The Immortals of a City | Quingdao

An Italian photographer is showing his images of European sculptures in coastal China. Italian photographer Michele Stanzione spent more than three months touring Europe while looking for sculptures to photograph. Images from his travels in 13 countries are now on show in East China in The Immortals of A City, which has been opened in a shopping mall in Qingdao city in Shandong province. The local government commissioned and funded Stanzione's project, for which he traveled through 15 cities from August to November.

He visited the cities that had been named cultural capitals of Europe by the European Union since 1985 and searched for all kinds of sculptures in public spaces, such as parks and streets. Stanzione snapped about 10,000 photos of sculptures including in Athens, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Copenhagen, Madrid, Dublin and Antwerp, among other locations.

His exhibition in Qingdao features 300 photos.

"It's a hard journey to find these sculptures. When I ask local people where the city's impressive sculptures are, most of them say they have no idea," says Stanzione, 34. Before he set out on his journey, Stanzione and his team searched for information online and in guidebooks, he says. Famous sculptures like the Little Mermaid and Mannekin Pis were Stanzione's targets for photos. But some ones less well-known or even sculptures without known creators, surprised him, too. In a park in Amsterdam, Stanzione noticed a bronze statue of a man seated on a tree branch with a saw in hand. In the Dutch capital, he also saw a street with a stone sculpture that resembles a human hand touching the chest. In Weimar, Germany, he found a bronze sculpture of a girl running in a forest. These common sculptures, together with the classical ones made to honor Europe's many philosophers, poets, musicians and writers, have not only become part of the continent's history, but also part of the daily lives of residents.

"When I was in my hometown of Aarhus in Denmark, I never paid special notice to our city sculptures. We live with them. They're just part of our lives," Niels Friis, head of cultural affairs with the Danish embassy in China, said after attending the Qingdao exhibition.

Qingdao was a German concession during World War I.

Li Ming, a senior official with the Qingdao government, says the photo show is just the start of a series of cultural exchanges between Qingdao and Europe. "Next year, we'll invite more than 10 top sculptors from Europe to make sculptures for our city," he says. "Then, based on our residents' decision, we'll place their favorite sculptures in public spaces." Unlike European cities where sculptures have long existed alongside old architecture, many Chinese cities are relatively new, with shorter histories of sculptures. In 1997, when Qingdao got its first landmark sculpture of a steel spiral structure, it was a rare occasion in China and drove a wave that saw many other cities install their own sculptures. Qingdao's modern sculptures, made in the past decades, make the city look good. But the local people now want more to create an artistic atmosphere, Li says. The city has some interesting historical figures for inspiration, such as Faxian, a Chinese monk who stayed in India for years in the 5th century to collect Buddhist scriptures, he says. Stanzione's show of the European sculptures opened to hundreds of visitors on Dec 6. Yu Peng, director of the Center of International Cultural Exchange Affairs with the Culture Ministry, says next year's program involving Qingdao and European artists will be a good example of exchanges between Chinese and foreign cities.

dengzhangyu@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily European Weekly 12/11/2015 page29)


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