Recently, in Shanghai, a Claude Monet exhibition has been enjoying unprecedented popularity for art exhibitions. It has almost become a cultural phenomenon, as everyone has been talking about it, including people who do not usually go to art museums. Honestly, I did not expect to meet such a big crowd when I visited the exhibition during working hours on a typical Monday.
Despite the huge crowd, I had a pleasant afternoon enjoying the aesthetic paintings, especially some of Monet’s later works such as his famous water lilies. My favorite in this exhibition was a painting of the London Houses of Parliament with sunshine breaking through the fog. However, as compared with his works displayed at the British National Gallery, I must admit the paintings in Shanghai might not be the best of his.
The exhibition was worth visiting, but I kept wondering where the disproportionate popularity had stemmed from. Why? Is there a growing demand for art in Shanghai? Or, successful marketing behind the scene?
As families in Shanghai are having an increasing amount of leisure time, I do notice a trend of growing interest in art. Years ago, people in Shanghai might think of visiting art museums as a rare weekend activity, but today, more and more people start to regard it as commonplace. Besides recreational purposes, parents begin to notice the importance of art education as well. Also, look at the crazy art auction markets! These are all positive changes that I am more than happy to see, and I believe such a growing interest must have contribute to Claude Monet’s popularity to some extent.
However, I am not too optimistic, concerning whether the popularity came from well-planned marketing campaign with commercial purposes. The Claude Monet Exhibition charged an entry fee of RMB $100 while most of the other art exhibitions were usually free or required less than RMB $30. Also remarkably, the Claude Monet exhibition did not take place in a traditional museum setting, but in the underground floor of a shopping mall. In comparison, currently, there is simultaneously a Rubens and Van Dyck exhibition, which, in my opinion, is equally good, if not better, and several lovely art exhibitions. Yet, none of them were on par with the current Monet exhibition in terms of popularity. Probably the difference in popularity was resulted from advertisement billboards and soft-selling in news reports.
Either way, at least I felt glad that more people in Shanghai were able to see Monet’s masterpieces. Meanwhile, I hope that commercial campaigns are not taking control over tastes of art, and that all the other enjoyable art exhibitions available in Shanghai would have a chance to be equally appreciated.