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Residents in the Chinese capital who are too busy to spend time enjoying the arts will be able to immerse themselves in an inspiring art exhibition while riding the subway.

From this weekend, Beijing subway Line 4 will decorate two of its carriages with paintings provided by the Central Academy of Fine Arts, as a traveling art gallery for city commuters.

The mobile art museum is expected to bridge the gap between artistic works and the public, and will draw more residents to art museums to view the original works.

The first selection of art pieces to be displayed include works by Italian painter and sculptor Aligi Sassu, and oil paintings by well-known and pioneering Chinese artists. It is the first long-term project to attempt to bring the public into closer contact with fine arts.

The museum is also planning to set up video presentation equipment at seven subway platforms, to better introduce commuters into the world of fine arts. Staff will help maintain the paintings while distributing cards and brochures to passing commuters explaining the works on show.

According to Hou Wei from Artistes en Herbe, an organization dedicated to promoting artistic works among children, China lags far behind other countries in terms of engagement with the arts, with less art museums and different art spaces on offer.

Second-tier cities, with fewer museums and even less education about art, are worse.
People abroad often go to museums and galleries, but not in China.

According to a survey on children’s art literacy education released this month and conducted by the youth education research center under the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, only 4.23 percent of parents frequently take their children to art exhibitions and cultural shows.

Many parents cite the shows’ high fees and their own schedules as reasons they do not visit.
The influence of the art museum is not as great as it was in the past, with the works of art poorly connected to the public.

The workshop Hou works with organizes an art appreciation class every weekend in which children can learn about art in museums or bookstores, with plain-speaking explanations that are easy to understand.

Hou says the subway exhibitions are a good way for residents to get to know great artists from China and abroad.

For people who spend several hours in the subway every day hurrying between the office and home, the traveling gallery allows them to ponder, meditate and communicate with great minds.

If only the capital’s subway was not so crowded.

Chris Sabian is a portrait artist with http://www.kutefineart.com and owner of http://www.paragonprints.co.uk