French president eyes cultural dialogues, exchanges in visit
‘Hand in hand’ in pursuit of ‘beauty and truth’
Published: Apr 06, 2023 12:22 AM
French President Emmanuel Macron  Photo: Courtesy of the Red Brick Art Museum
French President Emmanuel Macron Photo: Courtesy of the Red Brick Art Museum

Only a few hours after having landed in ­Beijing on Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron appeared at the 17th Croisements Festival, a key event to the 2023 China-France cultural exchanges, at the Chinese capital's Red Brick Art Museum. 

At the event, Macron introduced the Bon Moment art exhibition. The show is the first of the festival's major programs. The French president took the occasion to encourage deeper "cross-cultural arts dialogue" between artists from China and France. 

Including a total of 13 artists, Bon ­Moment invited Chinese art creators such as Cao Fei and Li Nu to make artworks that echo creations by French artists such as Mircea Cantor and Clément Cogitore on all manners of shared human subjects such as AI technology and "extinction and rebirth." 

Macron said that although artists from China and France have their own "unique charismas," due to different historical and cultural backgrounds, the two countries' pursuits of "beauty and truth" have nevertheless remained to the same. 

"We want to be hand-in-hand to create a delightful space in the world," he noted. 
Wang Xuebin, professor with the ­Party School of the CPC Central Committee (National Academy of Governance), told the Global Times that as two important civilizations in the East and West, both China and France have diversified cultures, which build an important foundation in terms of cultural exchanges. 

"Historically, the Chinese civilization provided oriental wisdom to Europe, especially the French Enlightenment in the 18th century. The French Revolution and French culture had a profound impact on China's modernization process," Wang said. 

"There have been very benign cultural exchanges between the two sides for hundreds of years in history."

As this marks the French president's third visit to China following two previous trips in 2018 and 2019, Macron seemed at ease in the Chinese art scene. He said he has "great respect to arts collaborations." 

Photo: Courtesy of the Red Brick Art Museum

Photo: Courtesy of the Red Brick Art Museum

A cultural delegation which has accompanied him on his ongoing China visit includes musician Jean-Michel Jarre, husband of renowned Chinese actress Gong Li, and filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud, whose 2022 disaster epic Notre-Dame on Fire is set to be released on Friday across China. It will be the first French film to open theatrically in China since the country optimized its COVID-19 response and reopened its arms to the world.

Annaud, director of The Name of the Rose, has long lasting ties with China. He directed the Chinese-French co-production Wolf Totem (2015) which is based on the acclaimed novel by Chinese author Jiang Rong. The film made about 701 million yuan ($101.89 million) at the box office in China according to statistics from Maoyan. 

Musician Jean-Michel Jarre first gained fame in the late 1970s for his "Oxygene," and was known to his Chinese audiences through staging two concerts in Beijing and three in Shanghai in 1981, becoming one of the first international artists to bring electronic music to China at the time. 

In 2019, Jarre married Chinese actress Gong Li, who also appeared as part of Macron's delegation during his China visit.

Sun Jiashan, a researcher at the Chinese National Academy of Arts, told the Global Times on Wednesday that young people from China and France have huge potential in mutual understanding and communication during the internet era through means like the virtual space.  

Wang said that strengthening international people-to-people and cultural exchanges and cooperation, and exploring the establishment of a global ­civilization dialogue and cooperation network are important parts of the concepts of a global community of shared future.

Given the Bon Moment, the 2023 Croisements Festival has a total of 65 offshoot events to be launched in over 20 Chinese cities between April and July. 

Another highlight of the cultural gala includes a blockbuster art show on France's fauvist master Henri Matisse to be held at the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing and also in Shanghai's UCCA Edge. 

Photo: Courtesy of the Red Brick Art Museum

Photo: Courtesy of the Red Brick Art Museum

Covering nearly 250 pieces of Matisse's art legacies, the show is the late mater's first solo exhibition that has never been introduced to the Chinese mainland before. 

The French president also revealed at the event that China-France cultural exchanges will be furthered covering other sectors such as dance and music, film, cultural digital creations, as well as printing and publishing. 

Such diverse cultural exchanges will last till the year 2024, which was described by the French president as a "significant occasion" that celebrates the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and France. 

Macron noted that there are planned cultural projects to be facilitated in the collaboration between France's Château de Versailles and China's Palace Museum.

Active communication and exchanges between China and France "pave the way for mutual learning of civilizations in other countries in the world," Wang said. 

"These upcoming events and exhibitions express the desire of both sides to hold a new round of normalized, high-level people-to-people and cultural exchange mechanism meetings as soon as possible," he noted. 

By noting cultural exchanges have "recovered" between China and France after they shook off the fatigue brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Macron encouraged the two countries' cultural workers to "continuously create" while creating arts to show all human beings' shared values. 

Macron's China visit will bring political, economic and trade cooperation to a new height, Wang told the Global Times. People-to-people and cultural exchanges will lay a solid foundation for a series of activities in the future for the two countries.

"We have rights to dream," said the French president. 

On Thursday, at the China premiere of Notre-Dameon Fire in Beijing, French Culture Minister Rima Abdul-Malak said museums in France and China will deepen cooperation onwards from 2023. 

She said at the event that a new project between the Palace of Versailles in Paris and the Palace Museum in Beijing was "confirmed." 

The French Culture Minister also added that France's Notre-Dame is scheduled to re-open to visitors by December 2024.