Two years ago, Germany's largest-ever contemporary Chinese art event, China 8, showed no fewer than 500 works in eight cities in the Rhine-Ruhr region and attracted about 120,000 visitors in four months, says Fan Di'an, the initiative's Chinese curator.
Now, Fan and the German curator of China 8, Walter Smerling, are collaborating again to present Deutschland 8: German Art in China.
Seven exhibitions and one academic forum held in Beijing's museums through the month are intended to present the most comprehensive introduction of contemporary German art since the 1950s in China. It features more than 300 works by 55 artists.
Deutschland 8 is one of many events this year to mark the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Germany.
German art influenced many Chinese artists in the 1980s, when they were introduced to contemporary Western art, following the start of the country's reform and opening-up.
But the diversity of German art, which has produced many noted figures in the international art community, is largely unknown among the Chinese public.
Smerling, who chairs the Bonn-based Foundation for Art and Culture, says the incumbent event enables people to compare different styles of established and young, emerging artists. It reflects the roles of art and dialogues between cultures in the ever-changing world.
He says the event should expand people's understanding, rather than make them draw conclusions or form fixed impressions, of German art.
Fan, who heads the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, says such exhibitions provide an artistic perspective to understand German values that embrace artisanship, anti-commercialism and anti-mediocrity.
"For example, while digital images dominate the world, many German artists still explore the possibilities of painting with persistence."
He adds that Deutschland 8 doesn't aim to show as many works as possible because Chinese people now pay frequent visits to museums abroad.
"Our aim is to invite people to take a careful look at how a country's art responds to the questions of history, reality and environment."
The Central Academy of Fine Arts' art museum is hosting an exhibition, titled Paradigm of Art, in which contemporary German art makes a collective appearance through paintings, photos, sculptures and installations.
At the Imperial Ancestral Temple Art Museum that neighbors the Palace Museum, the exhibition Traces of Memory focuses on contemporary German paintings. It shows pieces by 10 masters, such as Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Richter－many of whose works are being exhibited in China for the first time.
The museum is operated by Beijing Working People's Cultural Palace (formerly Taimiao) and the Central Academy of Fine Arts. The school helps plan at least three exhibitions at the museum annually.
Yuan Jieqiong, the museum's director, says the show displays rarely viewed and emotionally expressive works by Beuys and Richter.
"The paintings encapsulate Germans' collective memories," Yuan says.
"They also demonstrate innovations in the longstanding traditions of German painting. They conduct a resounding conversation with the Imperial Ancestral Temple, which is some 600 years old."
The other five exhibitions are running at privately-funded contemporary art museums and galleries, including the 15-year-old Today Art Museum and the Red Brick Art Museum that opened in Beijing three years ago.
Red Brick Art Museum founder Yan Shijie says Deutschland 8 should become a milestone for China's contemporary art museums which, through their participation, can show their strengths in improving public cultural services.
Fan says many exhibitions target professional audiences but fail to appeal to the general public.
Deutschland 8 should be an opportunity for Chinese museums to reorient their mission－staging shows that are academic yet also interest ordinary viewers.
He also hopes Deutschland 8 can be developed into a series of projects. Perhaps France 8 and Britain 8 are on the horizon.