By Lily Chen
Hongtao Li, an exceptionally gifted artist born in Dalian, China who has made America his second home, continues to gain both critical and commercial acclaim from experts and art lovers all over the world.
More and more, these have resulted in international art collectors – individuals, museums and other prestigious institutions – placing great value on acquisitions of Li’s body of work.
Recently, he scored another triumph with the exhibition of 60 of his paintings in Treviso, Italy, a suburb of Venice. On July 29, Italy’s Cassamarca museum showcased Li’s collection with the theme “The Power of Color.” With it, Li made history as the first Chinese artist to be featured in this museum — where he was hailed as the Chinese Van Gogh.
Treviso is also the hometown of Luciano Benneton, the famed fashion design who launched the immensely successful Benneton clothing store chain. Benneton himself was present, as a patron of Li’s work. Li presented him with a set of miniature versions of his paintings, to accompany his collection of miniatures by other masters.
After the exhibition closed on August 9, the media reported all 60 paintings were acquired by 12 organizations, including Cassamarca Foundation, University of Venice, and the Art College of Venice.
Li’s genius is evident. And with each passing year, his place in the art world and in history is secure. Art, too, is universal. Li has also achieved much in bringing countries and cultures together.
At the opening ceremony, Chinese Consul General Dong Wang in Milan pointed out that the art exhibition coincided with the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Italy, which will be of mutual benefit to China and Europe, thus enhancing the friendly relations between China and Italy.
Li’s works have been exhibited at world-class venues, such as Le Louvre in France and the Russian Museum. In America, Japan, Singapore, Russia, Italy and other parts of the world, his abstract artworks have elicited rave reviews from connoisseurs, as well as the general public.
Despite all this, with his inspiring rise from a humble, heartbreaking beginning to the zenith of his career, Li continues to be true to himself both as artist and man. Likewise, he continues to celebrate his Asian roots, European and western influences, as well as his life experiences – all of which, with his gifts, make his art unique.
During the exhibition at Italy’s Cassamarca museum, Li said, “My paintings are rich in colors, filled with creativity and combining both traditional Chinese cultural elements and western oil painting composition and techniques, which can be attributed to traditional Chinese culture and my personal experience in the past decades. I wish to present vitality with my paintings.”
Li also said that he admires the creative styles of many European art masters such as Van Gogh. He added, however, that an artist’s style also comes from his own life experiences, thoughts, cultivation, morals and inner qualities.
Says Li: “To create a good piece, factors such as style and theme are important. Today, societies and peoples’ lives move at a very rapid pace. Artworks that focus on themes that are uplifting and affect the human body in a positive way are preferred and appreciated by both collectors and everyday people.”
Stefanía Portinari, professor of Modern Art at the University of Venice, believes that by blending the natural elements such as heaven, water, mountains, and the seasons, Li’s paintings emphasize the essence of the ancient Oriental culture, and reflect his creative depth and ease in rendering the color and technique.
Adriano Madaro, president of Cassamarca Museum, noted that in Li’s paintings, color plays a prominent role, demonstrating the flow of harmony between the East and the West. With Li’s unique and distinctive style, these paintings, which represent contemporary Chinese art, are rendered accessible to the world.
Li told Asian Fortune that his next exhibition would be in partnership with Seattle Art Museum and the Bill Gates Foundation, among others. The goal: To boost cultural exchange, especially on contemporary oil paintings, between China and the U.S.
Through the years, an increasing number of Western collectors have shown interest in Li’s artwork. Remarked Li: “I am fortunate that during each of my art exhibitions in various parts of the world, I was able to gain the support of the local media. This has helped me reach a wider audience, as well as gain recognition and praise from art critics worldwide.”
To read more about Hongtao Li’s life and his exclusive interview with Asian Fortune, please click here.