Star status for king of the children's curator

Updated: 2013-11-10 07:56

By Zhao Ruixue (China Daily)

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Children's smiles are so big when they unexpectedly have this "foreign grandpa" pose beside them for a photograph. They probably don't know exactly who he is, but they regard him as a star. Like Qi Haoran, a grade-1 junior middle school student in Jinan, who says: "I saw him on TV. He is so great."

The "foreign grandpa" is 67-year-old Vincenzo Sanfo, chairman of the Italian Art and Cultural Center and curator of the European Classics Exhibition held in Shandong Museum until Nov 16.

Thanks to Sanfo, people get the chance to know what Leonardo da Vinci looks like. The Lucan Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, believed to be the only known self-portrait by the master, made its debut in China at the European Classics Exhibition. It was the third time it has been exhibited outside Italy since it was discovered in 2009.

"It is probably the last time (the self-portrait will be exhibited) as the painting will be under repair for a long time after it returns to Italy," says Sanfo.

Apart from the self-portrait, people can get a close look at more than 350 works by world-known artists, including Michelangelo Schiavoni, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.

"This (the exhibition) is a gift to Jinan," says Sanfo, adding he is recognized by the Jinan government as an "honorable citizen" and he'd like to do something in return.

Star status for king of the children's curator

Born in Turin, Sanfo is endowed with artistic talent. At 15, he held his first exhibition to showcase singers' posters.

In 2003, Sanfo held an exhibition in Jinan, capital of Shandong province, to show a contemporary Italian painter's works. Since then he has built a close relationship with Shandong, visiting the province more than 100 times over the past 10 years.

"Shandong is the place where the world-renowned educator Confucius was born I do think the province has the potential to be one featured with strong cultural ambience, something like a 'capital of culture'," says Sanfo.

He organized a series of exhibitions in Shandong focusing on Pablo Picasso's works, Italian sculptures and Italian contemporary design arts to enrich the province's cultural portfolio.

"I was strict with the paintings I exhibited," says Sanfo. "The thoughts and ideas the painting conveys do matter."

Sanfo compared himself with a farmer that spreads seeds of culture.

"Sanfo played an important role in bringing Western and Chinese artists together. This has promoted the international communication in the field of culture," says Pan Lusheng, a member of the China National Academy of Painting.

Now Sanfo works as a professor at Shandong University of Art and Design teaching students how to organize museums and exhibitions.

"An exhibition is somewhat like a book. When you appreciate the works, you shall try to understand the thoughts embedded in the works just like you read a book page by page," says Sanfo.

"Currently China is short of world-known curators."

According to Sanfo, the average age of Chinese curators is 40, indicating they only have at most 20 years to learn and practice their profession.

"I'd like to share my experience with Chinese people to help cultivate excellent curators," says Sanfo.

Sanfo has many Chinese artworks in his collections, such as china and old photos. The experienced curator also donated 100 manuscripts by Italian designer Giorgio Armani to Shandong University of Art and Design.

To honor his contribution to Shandong, Sanfo was last year bestowed the Qilu Friendship Prize, the most prestigious provincial government award for expats.

(China Daily 11/10/2013 page5)